Authorities in Djibouti have expelled a team of BBC journalists who were in the Horn of Africa country to cover the presidential elections, slated for tomorrow, April 8.
The expulsion of the four has been condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which said that journalists should report on presidential elections without harassment or fear of expulsion.
“An election can be free and fair only if journalists can cover it without being harassed, detained, or expelled,” said CPJ Deputy Executive Director Robert Mahoney.
He added: “The expulsion of a news crew after they had interviewed the foreign minister and an opposition figure is an act of censorship and casts doubt on the fairness and transparency of this poll.”
Meanwhile, the BBC said that it had written to the government of Djibouti inquiring why the Djibouti authorities had detained and expelled its team of reporters and producers, including the BBC’s Africa security correspondent, Tomi Oladipo.
The team of journalists was in the country ahead of presidential elections and was accredited to work there, Police detained the group after they interviewed Djibouti’s foreign minister and an opposition candidate on April 1, then put them on a plane the following morning, the BBC said. Oladipo described their ordeal in an interview.
According to the BBC, the Djiboutian government has not responded to a letter from the broadcaster seeking an explanation. Neither the office of the prime minister nor the minister of foreign affairs returned CPJ’s phone calls about the matter.
Available information indicates that President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who is seeking a fourth term in tomorrow’s elections, was first elected as President in 1999 as the handpicked successor to his uncle, Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who had ruled Djibouti since independence in 1977.
African Union guidelines for a free and fair elections hold that there must be freedom of ‘assembly, association, expression, and campaigning as well as access to the media on the part of all stakeholders’.