Ameriques Asie Europe Moyen-Orient Internet Nations unies
Djibouti9 July 2003

Appeal court sends newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah back to prison

Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at the Djibouti appeal court’s decision today to sentence Daher Ahmed Farah, editor of the newspaper Le Renouveau, to three months in prison for libelling the army chief of staff, Gen. Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim. At the end of the court hearing, Farah was taken back to Djibouti’s Gabode prison, from which he had been released on a lower court’s decision on 23 June.

The appeal court also gave Farah an additional three months’ suspended sentence, ordered him to pay 13 million Djibouti francs (about 65,000 euros) in damages, fined him 200,000 Djibouti francs (about 1,000 euros) and banned his newspaper from appearing for three months.

"This is outright harassment," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard, pointing out that this was the third time Farah has been imprisoned this year on the same charges, ones that were dismissed by the lower court just two weeks ago. "This is not serious," he said.

Ménard also condemned the "astronomical" damages set by the court, which he described as a "death sentence" for Le Renouveau. "How will a little newspaper selling just a few hundred copies be able to find more than 65,000 euros? The authorities know very well this is the way to silence a newspaper that is bothering them."

Farah has been convicted as a result of a libel suit brought by Gen. Zakaria and the members of a military folkloric troupe, the Troupe Harbi. The newspaper had claimed in its issue of 17 April that Gen. Zakaria was using the troupe for political and personal ends.

"Is it republican to use a component of the army to make propaganda for a regime," the newspaper asked in a comment addressed at the Gen. Zakaria. "Do you think you are acting as a republican officer when you lend yourself to the political exploitation of a military cultural troupe? General, is it true that female members of the Harbi Troupe continue to serve you as in the past, in sports dress, of course?"

Farah, who also heads an opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), had previously been arrested several times in recent years. In most cases he was accused of press crimes and was fined or sentenced to prison terms.

In this country
26 June - Djibouti
Government’s authoritarian excesses condemned on 30th anniversary of independence
18 May - Djibouti
Journalist freed but opposition weekly raided again
13 February - Djibouti
Authorities urged to drop libel prosecution against opposition weekly
24 June - Djibouti
Newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah released again
7 June - Djibouti
Newspaper editor re-arrested just two days after he was released

in the annual report
Africa press releases
3 June - Somalia
Alarm at TV station director’s abduction near Mogadishu
27 May - Gabon
Government imposes news blackout on President Bongo’s health
26 May - Somalia
Radio reporter shot by militia dies of injuries, fourth journalist to be killed this year

africa archives

18 March 2009 - Democratic Republic of Congo
“Bukavu, murder city”: investigation report into murders of journalists in the capital of Sud-Kivu
21 May 2008 - Eritrea
Naizghi Kiflu, the dictatorship’s eminence grise
6 March 2008 - Kenya
"How far to go ?" Kenya’s media caught in the turmoil of a failed election

Sign the petitions
Sign the petition for the release of ten Eritrean journalists