Lagos — The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Chadian authorities to investigate reports of official intimidation of journalists working for a private community radio station in the southern town of Doba.
Alnodji Mbairaba Jean-paul, the editor-in-chief of La Voix du Paysan, told CPJ that he and two other journalists had been intimidated and threatened by Lamlengar Ngasebey, the town's mayor, and members of his family. La Voix du Paysan had broadcast on September 20, 21, 28 a series of news reports in which local citizens accused Ngasebey of abuse of power, mismanagement, and hiring practices that favored attractive women, the journalists said.
Alnodji told CPJ that the mayor had called him into his office on September 25 and said that he was trying to stop some of his family members from burning down the station. "He tried to intimidate me by saying he would prevail on his family not to burn the station," Alnodji said.
The Union of Private Radio Stations in Chad said in a press statement that on September 26, family members and supporters of Ngasebey had assaulted Felix Djimadoumngar, a reporter for La Voix du Paysan. Djimadoumngar told CPJ he suffered injuries to his neck, back, and legs. Alnodji also said that the mayor's family had intimidated Severin Meldewei, the station's host, in the courtyard of a police station.
Ngasebey denied all of the allegations when CPJ contacted him by phone. "Some people have peddled wrong news about me. I was unjustly attacked," he said. When asked about the La Voix du Paysan journalists being intimidated by his supporters, he said, "It is a lie, and I will not answer any questions."
Alnodji told CPJ that he had sought Ngasebey's comment before broadcasting each report, but that the mayor had refused to comment. The editor said that he had again sought the mayor's response after the reports had been broadcast.
"We are alarmed by allegations of intimidation of journalists of La Voix du Paysan for giving a voice to local citizens who have complaints about the mayor," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. "We call on the Ministry of Security to investigate the allegations of intimidation, since they involve the top official in Doba."
Alnodji told CPJ that the station had filed an official complaint, but that authorities hadn't followed up on the complaint.
Abdoulaye Georges Moyalta, Chad's Inspector General of national police, told CPJ that police found no basis for the arson threats, but did confirm the assault involving Djimadoumngar and said it had since been resolved. He refused to comment further.
On October 10, the High Council on Communications, Chad's state-run media regulatory agency, issued a formal warning to La Voix du Paysan, accusing the station's live broadcast on September 30 of "inciting the public to insurrection against the government," according to news reports. The station had aired a sermon by a bishop who criticized the government for allegedly failing to make oil wealth benefit the region, the reports said.
For more data and analysis on Chad, visit CPJ's Chad page here.