Chadian radio journalist seized by rebels

New York, April 12, 2006—Rebel fighters abducted a journalist on Tuesday when they seized the central Chadian town of Mongo, the head of the Union of Chadian Journalists, Evariste Toldé, told the Committee to Protect Journalists today. Eliakim Vanambyl, editor at the N’Djamena-based radio station FM Liberté, had traveled to Mongo to report on a conference organized by local human rights organizations, Toldé said. Vanambyl’s whereabouts are unknown.

Chad’s government stated today that the army had regained control of Mongo, but the rebel United Front for Change denied the claim and said they were advancing on the capital, wire services reported.

On Tuesday, Vanambyl called FM Liberté’s director, Gata Nder, from his mobile phone to tell him that he was being held by rebels, Toldé told CPJ. During the conversation, the phone was seized and shut off. When the station’s board chairman, Dobian Assingar, called Vanambyl’s phone today, he was able to speak only to a rebel fighter who called him “crazy” before hanging up. Mobile phone lines across the country have since stopped working, and attempts by CPJ to reach other local journalists were unsuccessful.

FM Liberté is an independent station launched more than a decade ago by Chadian human rights organizations.

“We are deeply worried that our colleague Eliakim Vanambyl has been swept into the fighting between rebels and government troops in Chad,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “Eliakim is an innocent bystander, and should be released immediately and unconditionally.”