Chad: Reporters Without Borders Prevented From Visiting N'djaména

press release

Reporters Without Borders is dismayed that stalling by the Chadian authorities has prevented it from visiting N'Djaména.

The head of RWB's Africa Desk was to have begun a six-day trip to Chad today to meet with Chadian media personnel, visit three imprisoned journalists - Eric Topona, Moussaye Avenir de la Tchiré and Jean Laokolé - and be received by several officials.

But spurious grounds were found for not granting his visa request.

"We just wanted to visit Chad with the best of intentions," Reporters Without Borders said. "We do not know the government's motives and we can only regret its failure to give us a visa, which prevents us from showing our support for the imprisoned journalists."

"It also prevents us from having talks with government officials, which we had hoped could be constructive, and from investigating the reasons for the detention of these three journalists. And more generally, it prevents us from discussing the current state of freedom of information in Chad with all those concerned and with politicians, including ministers, who had agreed in principle to a meeting."

The three journalists were all arrested in an arbitrary manner. Laokolé, a writer and blogger was arrested first, on 22 March. His arrest was followed six weeks later by those of Topona on 6 May and De La Tchiré on 7 May. Several opposition parliamentarians were arrested at the same time, amid claims by the government that it had foiled a conspiracy.

It seems that, as far as Topona and Laokolé are concerned, the authorities objected to their contacts with the Chadian exile blogger Makaila Nguebla (http://makaila.over-blog.com/).

The general secretary of the Union of Chadian Journalists (UJT) and a former employee of Chad's national radio broadcaster, Topona is charged with "attacking constitutional order." He has been suffering from malaria for several days. De La Tchiré, who is managing editor of the newspaper Abba Garde and UJT treasurer, is charged with "inciting hatred and a popular uprising."

Requests for their provisional release have been filed by their lawyers, but neither request has been granted.

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