31 January 2018

Chad Arrests Local Journalist Over Satire Piece

Judicial police in Chad's capital N'Djamena on January 29, 2018, released Mahamat Abakar Issa, the director of the weekly newspaper Alchahed, after detaining him for seven days, according to Djimet Witche Wahili, the director of the privately owned news site Alwihda Info.

On January 23, judicial police summoned and then arrested Abakar Issa over accusations of destabilizing relations between Chad and neighboring Sudan, according to police documents seen by CPJ and Witche Wahili.

While he was in detention, police questioned the journalist about a satirical piece he wrote on the relationship between the presidents of Turkey and Sudan, as well as two other articles that were published in Alchahed, the journalist told CPJ.

Three days after his arrest, police took Abakar Issa to the Alchahed office, and seized documents and the paper's editing computer without a warrant, Yo-Hounkilam Jule Daniel, editor-in-chief of Alchahed, told CPJ. Daniel said the seizures will not halt Alchahed's publication.

On the day of Abakhar Issa's release, Mahamat Saleh Youssouf, the N'Djamena prosecutor, cited the journalist's satirical piece on the relationship between the presidents of Turkey and Sudan as the impetus for the Abakhar Issa's arrest. The article, which was published on December 27, 2017, outlines a conversation between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in which Chad is characterized as unstable and unworthy of investment.

Abakhar Issa told CPJ on January 29 after his release that he would be called back to the prosecutor's office in one week, but authorities have not fixed a date.

The journalist told CPJ that authorities had not filed charges against him, and added that the judicial police have not returned the computer or documents they seized at the Alchahed office.

Previously, on January 4, Chad's High Counsel of Communication (HCC) summoned Abakar Issa over a complaint from the Sudanese embassy concerning the journalist's December 27 article, according to an account of the event published by Abakar Issa in Alwihda Info and a police summons seen by CPJ.

Following Abakar Issa's meeting with HCC officials, his case was referred to the prosecutor general's office, prompting his summons to the Judicial Police office on January 23, according to the journalist.

Paul Manga, police spokesperson in N'Djamena, told CPJ that he did not have any information on Abakhar Issa's arrest and that all information was in the hands of Youssouf. CPJ's repeated calls to Youssouf went unanswered.

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