Djibouti: Media and the law

Djibouti is one of the few African countries without any privately-owned or independent media. Today, only four national media outlets exist: Radio Télévision Djiboutienne, La Nation and Al Qaran (La Nation’s Arabic-language version), which are controlled by the Ministry of Communications and Culture, and Le Progrès, a newsletter published by the ruling Popular Rally for Progress (RPP). They all take a pro-government line.

While the BBC and Voice of America can also be received in Djibouti, they rarely carry any sensitive reports about the country.

Because of high poverty levels, with an estimated 42% of the population living below the poverty line, radio is the most popular news medium, as few Djiboutians can afford newspapers, televisions or computers, or access online platforms.

The years 2011 and 2012 saw a disturbing trend of increased legal and extra-legal repression of opposition reporters and activists. Correspondents of the European-based opposition radio station La Voix de Djibouti were targeted, suffering arrests, detention, and alleged torture at the hands of the gendarmerie.

The US military presence in Djibouti creates additional pressures for self-censorship as journalists are discouraged from reporting on soldiers’ activities. Journalists generally avoid covering sensitive issues, which include human rights violations, the army, the rebel group the Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy (FRUD), and relations with Ethiopia. The official media, which accounts for almost all the outlets in the country, does not criticise the government and practices widespread self-censorship.

The creation of the National Commission on Communication, responsible for the licensing and regulation of the media, mainly television and radio, has been put on hold, hindering any progress towards an independent regulatory authority to manage the frequency spectrum.

Djibouti: Media and the law.