(RSF/IFEX) - In a letter to State Prosecutor Sailihi Mahamoid, RSF called for the immediate release of Izdine Abdou Salam, director of the radio station Radio Karthala, who was detained under a committal order on 12 November 2001. "The message is clear: democratic debate is completely banned in the Comoros," stated Robert Ménard, the organisationâs secretary-general. "Nothing can justify the detention of this journalist, who did nothing more than allow dissident voices to express themselves," added Ménard.
According to information collected by RSF, on 10 November, Salam was questioned at the Moroni police station. Two days later, he was detained under a committal order at the Public Prosecutorâs Office. The charge against him is unknown. Salam allegedly broadcast a programme that was deemed to be defamatory. His arrest followed Radio Karthalaâs broadcast of a debate about a constitutional proposal that will be the object of a referendum on 23 December. Several contributors severely criticised the text on the air. The tapes of the programme were seized by the police. Salam has previously been sentenced for "defamation" against the prime minister, and the tribunal barred him from broadcasting political programmes.
RSF also recalled that Allaoui Saïd Omar and Omar Badaoui, publication director and reporter from "La Gazette des Comores", respectively, were recently sentenced to suspended six-month prison sentences. They published an article in which they implicated the presidencyâs secretary-general in a counterfeit banknote trafficking affair.
Finally, RSF recalled that another journalist has been detained in the Comoros for over one year. Cheikh Ali Cassim, director of Tropic FM radio station, was sentenced to four yearsâ imprisonment, including fourteen months without parole, for "possession of illegal arms". Many local observers believe that there is no proof to back the charge. The journalist, who is also a former member of parliament, has been imprisoned in Moroni since 15 August 2000 (see IFEX alert of 2 October 2000).