Crackdown on critical voices intensifies
According to reliable reports received by the CIVICUS Monitor Research Partner, two online activists were detained in June 2017. Chehem, nicknamed Chehem Renard, was arrested on the night of 5th June by agents of the Service de Recherche et de la Documentation at his home. Blogger Omar Mohamed Nour, better known by his pen name Omar Zohra, was also arrested by security agents the following night on 6th June in his Q7bis neighbourhood. Both were held incommunicado in an unknown location and later released on 18th June 2017. The two men had been active in online social media forums, such as Facebook, engaging the public in debate and exposing the repressive nature of the regime that has ruled Djibouti since 1977. Sources indicate that they were arrested shortly after publishing videos and news posts on alleged corruption within the first family of Djibouti. Omar Zohra curated a popular Facebook page called ‘Avec Djpolitique News Sur Face’, in which he often publicly criticised both government and opposition politicians.The pair have reported being harassed by authorities for several months due to their activities, and this is the third time they have been arbitrarily arrested by security agents in the past year. In a recent update of the case, the passports and identity cards of the two have reportedly been confiscated. After his most recent arrest, Omar Zohra claimed to have been physically assaulted by security officers and submitted a formal complaint accusing them of torture.
In the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, Djibouti ranks 172 out of 180 countries on press freedoms due to the "repressive arsenal of government tactics against journalists such as judicial harassment, illegal searches, and exorbitant fines resulting in detention for non-payment".
No privately-owned or independent media outlet operates within the country. La Voix de Djibouti, the country’s only independent media outlet, continues to broadcast from outside Djibouti.
In mid-June 2017, a youth protest over better access to employment opportunities in the new Port of Tadjourah was cut short when security officials detained protesters at the Tadjourah Gendarmerie headquarters, where allegations of torture have been widespread. Although several dozen protesters were arrested, only the names of Ali Chehem Ali, Mohamed Ali Issa, and Ali Hassan Ali are known – all three had been previously arrested for protesting over access to jobs in the region. It is unclear how long the protesters were detained, or if they were officially charged.
Security forces detained and arrested at least 20 opposition members and human rights defenders between mid-March and early April 2017, according to the International Federation for Human Rights. Of the 19 detained opposition members and leaders, nine were charged with “illegal banking activity” and five of them face additional charges of “illegal political activity”.