10 July 2003


Appeals court sends newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah back to prison

Incident details

Daher Ahmed Farah


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(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has voiced its outrage over the Djibouti Appeals Court's 9 July 2003 decision to sentence Daher Ahmed Farah, editor of the newspaper "Le Renouveau", to three months' imprisonment for libelling the army's chief of staff, Gen. Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim. Following the court hearing, Farah was taken back to Djibouti's Gabode prison, from which he had been released following a lower court's decision on 23 June.

The Appeals Court also handed Farah an additional three months' suspended jail sentence, ordered him to pay 13 million Djibouti francs (about US$73,600; 65,000 euros) in damages, fined him 200,000 Djibouti francs (about US$1,130; 1,000 euros) and banned his newspaper from appearing for three months.

"This is outright harassment," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard, pointing out that this was the third time Farah has been imprisoned this year on the same charges, which had been dismissed by a lower court just two weeks ago. Ménard also condemned the "astronomical" damages set by the court, which he described as a "death sentence" for "Le Renouveau". "How will a small 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 bothers them."

Farah has been convicted as a result of a libel suit brought by Zakaria and members of a military folkloric troupe, the Troupe Harbi. In its 17 April issue, the newspaper had claimed that 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 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, and in sports dress, of course?"

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


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