Chad: Journalist Olivier Memnguidé Held for Five Days, Accused of Rebellion

(file photo).

Dakar — Authorities in Chad should cease their harassment of reporter Olivier Memnguidé and ensure journalists can cover events of public interest, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On April 20, the Chadian gendarmerie, a military police force, arrested Memnguidé, a correspondent for the privately owned radio station Oxygène, as he covered unrest in the southwestern town of Donia in the Logone Occidental region, according to the journalist and Abbas Mahamoud, the chairman of the Union of Journalists of Chad (UJT). They both spoke to CPJ by phone and email.

Memnguidé and Mahamoud said the gendarmerie seized the journalist's cell phone and took him to their office in the nearby Moundou city, where he was accused of rebellion, held for five days, and then released after the local prosecutor intervened. The gendarmerie informed Memnguidé on his release that he should be ready because they might still prosecute him, he told CPJ, adding that as of May 12, his cell phone had yet to be returned.

"Chadian authorities should cease their harassment of Radio Oxygène journalist Olivier Memnguidé and ensure he can work freely and without fear of another arbitrary arrest or prosecution," said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator, in New York. "Covering unrest is dangerous enough for journalists without worrying about an arrest on spurious anti-state allegations."

Memnguidé was arrested at the same time as several young adults from Donia "who were rioting in response to the detention of another youth who had been charged for allegedly stealing a motorcycle," Mahamoud told CPJ.

"I went to the field to get a feel for the situation and to scout around. When I was about to meet [and interview] the authorities, the brigade commander who was following me, stopped me and took me to Moundou, the provincial capital," Memnguidé told the CPJ. The journalist said he did not behave in any way that would justify him being accused of rebellion.

Five days later, on April 25, Memnguidé was presented to the prosecutor's office in Moundou, where the deputy prosecutor ordered his release over because the court there did not have jurisdiction to proceed with the case, the journalist told CPJ. Since then, Memnguidé has not returned to his home in Goré, another nearby town, because he is fearful that he will be rearrested.

CPJ called Ahmed Saleh, a commandant with the local gendarmerie, but the line disconnected after CPJ told him the call was about Memnguidé's arrest.

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