Committee to Protect Journalists
Country Report: Djibouti
As of December 31, 1998

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Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who has run the country since Djibouti's independence from France in 1977, was elected president in 1993 in the country's first elections. His term will expire in May 1999 and his nephew and cabinet chief, Ismail Omar Gelleh, is his designated successor as well as the de facto leader of the country.

Government representation is among the issues dividing the population along ethnic lines between the Issa (Somali) majority and the Afar minority, as is a looming Afar-led insurgency reportedly gathering strength in the north of the country. In 1998, a reported 3,500 French troops remained in Djibouti to respond to any outbreak of unrest in this strategically located country at the tip of the Red Sea.

In the past few years, the independent print media have been allowed to function freely. However, against the backdrop of heightened ethnic tension, the government has begun exerting increasing pressure on the private press. Criminal Affairs Squad agents arrested Omar Ahmed Vincent and Aboubaker Ahmed Aouled, director of publication and editor in chief, respectively, of the weekly Le Populaire, on charges of "incitement to ethnic hatred" after the April 26 edition of the newspaper reported that Finance Minister Yacin Elmi Bouh was involved in an embezzlement scheme. Each was sentenced to two months in prison, and Le Populaire was suspended for six months. The government controls all radio broadcasting, which is the main source of information for the mostly rural population.
Attacks on the Press in Djibouti in 1998
Date Journalist Incident
5/5/98 Omar Ahmed Vincent, Le Populaire Imprisoned, Harassed
5/5/98 Aboubaker Ahmed Aouled, Le Populaire Imprisoned, Harassed
5/5/98 Le Populaire Censored
2/17/98 Ahmed Abdi Farah, Al Wahda Imprisoned
2/17/98 Kamil Hassan Ali, Al Wahda Imprisoned

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