New York, December 17, 2007—The manager of the former local branch of the national Comoros Islands broadcaster Radio Télévision des Comores went into hiding on December 1, fearing for his safety. Journalist Kamal Ali Yahoudha told CPJ in a phone interview that he fled from his house in Mutsamudu, the capital of the separatist island of Anjouan, an hour before a group of armed military police came to arrest him, according to his family. He was informed by a government source and had time to flee, Yahoudha
While no official accusation was made against Yahoudha by the Anjouan authorities, he said he is targeted by the breakaway government as a supporter of the union government, the main government of the Federal Republic of Comoros. Anjouan is one of three autonomous islands composing the Comoros Islands off the southeast coast of Africa. In June, Anjouan’s self-proclaimed president, Colonel Mohamed Bacar, printed his own ballots in elections contested by the union government and the African Union.
“We are concerned for the safety of Kamal Ali Yahoudha,” said CPJ’s executive director, Joel Simon. “The Anjouan authorities need to ensure his safety so that he may return to work as a journalist.”
The Anjouan Minister of Cooperation and government spokesman Mohamed Abdou Madi said Yahoudha was not in any danger. He said there are plenty of journalists in Anjouan who are aligned with the union government and since “none of those are being pursued, why would we hunt for Yahoudha?” According to Madi, journalists were invited to Anjouan in October “to see for themselves” the situation on the island, but were prevented from actually visiting the island.
On May 3, the Anjouan station for Radio Télévision des Comores was attacked and sabotaged by the Anjouan military police, local journalists said. The station has remained off the air ever since and most of the personnel have fled to the other islands, leaving only seven of their colleagues in Mutsamudu.