|MARCH 24, 2004|
Posted: April 9, 2004
Allaoui Said Omar, La Gazette des Comores
Omar, publication director of the independent daily La Gazette des Comores, was charged with "publishing false news" in connection with an article published in La Gazette on March 19 about the sinking of a passenger ferry that killed more than 100 people, most of them Comorian.
The article quoted an insurance company employee who alleged that the boat was uninsured when it sank.
According to Omar's lawyer, Harimia Ahmed, state prosecutor Idi Bazia brought the charges against the journalist while Omar was in police detention in connection with a separate alleged press offense. "Publishing false news" carries a maximum prison sentence of six months and/or a maximum fine of 300,000 Comorian francs (US$762).
MARCH 24, 2004
Posted: July 21, 2004
Allaoui Said Omar, La Gazette des Comores
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Gendarmes arrested and detained Omar, publication director of the independent daily La Gazette des Comores, after the newspaper published an interview with Younoussa Assoumani, the finance minister of the semi-autonomous government of Grande Comore (also known as Ngazidja). Grande Comore, which is the largest of the country's three main islands, is administered by its own president under the terms of a 2002 federal constitution aimed at stabilizing the notoriously coup-prone island nation.
Grande Comore is also the seat of the Comorian Union government, led by President Azali Assoumani, which oversees all three islands. Assoumani has met with repeated opposition from the islands' local governments, who accuse the head of state of trying to undermine their autonomy.
In the interview, published by La Gazette on March 23, Assoumani accused the state prosecutor, Idi Bazia, of interfering with voting in March's local legislative elections. The elections were seen by observers as a barometer of local residents' desire for greater independence from the central government.
Following his arrest, Omar was held for 48 hours in police custody before being released. According to his lawyer, Harimia Ahmed, the journalist was charged with "publishing false news," an offense under the country's Information Code. The offense carries a penalty of up to six months in prison, and/or a fine of up to 300,000 Comoran francs (US$762), Ahmed said. Bazia, the same prosecutor named in the article, brought the charges against Omar.
APRIL 21, 2004
Posted: August 11, 2004
In the middle of the night, a group of masked men attacked the offices of Radio Ngazidja, the official station of Grande Comore (also known as Ngazidja), the largest of the country's three main islands. The men injured a security guard at the station, who was hospitalized following the raid. Police interrupted the raid, chasing away about 15 assailants, according to local sources.
Sources at the station said an anonymous phone caller had warned them of the attack in advance, according to the Panafrican News Agency. Station Director Abdou Djibaba told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the station had received anonymous threats two days before the attack.
Local journalists believe that the attack on the station came in reprisal for Radio Ngazidja broadcasts criticizing the Comorian central government, which is led by President Azali Assoumani. A CPJ source said that weekly call-in shows, during which local residents can phone the station and voice their concerns and criticisms on-air, had become a point of contention with central government authorities.
Grande Comore is administered semi-autonomously by its own president under the terms of the country's 2002 constitution, which is aimed at stabilizing the notoriously coup-prone nation. Grande Comore is also the seat of the central government, which overseas all three islands. Assoumani is locked in a power struggle with the islands' local governments, which accuse the head of state of trying to undermine their autonomy.
Mohamed Abdou Solmadou, acting federal minister of security and defense and an adviser to Assoumani, said the attack "was waiting to happen," according to AFP. "The station is overly given to insults and provocation," Solmadou said.