17 January 2008

Chad: Police Close Down N'Djamena Radio Station, Arrest Manager

press release

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Chadian authorities to explain why the police yesterday raided privately-owned radio FM Liberté in N'Djamena, closed it down and arrested its manager, Djekourninga Kaoutar Lazar.

"A raid on a respected radio station, its arbitrary closure and the arrest of its manager are methods one uses with gangsters," the press freedom organisation said. "It is not a crime to express an opinion that does not concur with government policy. On the contrary, it is the press and public's inalienable right. The government should act with restraint, even in a period of crisis, and should provide the public with an explanation for this show of force."

Some 15 policemen stormed into FM Liberté's studios at 5:45 p.m. yesterday and asked to see Lazar. When told he was not there, they asked if they could inspect all the news programmes that had been broadcast since the start of the week. Editorial coordinator Madji Madji Odjitan refused, saying this was the job of the High Council for Communication (HCC).

In response, the police closed down the station and arrested Odjitan, taking him to the headquarters of the criminal investigation department. He was freed a few hours later after Lazar turned himself in. Lazar is still being held at the headquarters of the criminal investigation department in N'Djamena. The government has not given an official explanation for his arrest.

Government supporters have been staging demonstrations for the past few weeks in protest against what they call the "Sudanese aggression that is being prepared in the east of the country." Opposition representatives have on several occasions criticised these demonstrations as "hypocritical" on FM Liberté.

Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has more than 120 correspondents worldwide.

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