June 5, 2013
H.E. Idriss Deby Itno
President of the Republic of Chad
Via facsimile: +235 2251 45 01
We are writing to express our concern about the ongoing imprisonment of Chadian journalists on anti-state charges. We believe the arrests of these reporters, simply for writing articles critical of the administration, turn dissenting citizens into criminals and stifle legitimate debate on issues of public interest.
Police in the capital, N'Djamena, arrested freelance journalist Jean Etienne Laokolé on March 22 and accused him of contributing articles critical of the government to Makaila.over-blog.com, an opposition blog that is published in Senegal, according to news reports and local journalists. Laokolé was charged with criminal defamation and remains in prison pending trial, according to his defense lawyer, Pierre Mialengar.
On May 6, police arrested Eric Topona, secretary-general of the Union of Chadian Journalists, on accusations of working with Laokolé and contributing to the same opposition blog, Agence France-Presse reported. Topona has been charged with "threatening constitutional order," and remains in prison pending trial.
The next day, Senegalese authorities ordered Makaïla Nguebla, author of Makaila.over-blog.com, to leave the country, according to news reports. The deportation order was issued at the request of the Chadian minister of justice, the reports said.
Also on May 7, police arrested Moussaye Avenir De La Tchiré, editor of the private trimonthly Abba Garde, in connection with an article he wrote for the paper that detailed alleged human rights abuses over the last two decades, his lawyer told CPJ. De La Tchiré was charged with "inciting hate and popular uprising," and remains in prison pending trial, Olivier Gouara, Abba Garde's lawyer, told CPJ.
No court dates have been set for any of the journalists.
In an interview with the BBC on May 8, you accused journalists and bloggers of working against the national unity of Chad. Mr. President, journalists must be allowed to report freely and without fear of prosecution. If Chadian authorities continue to imprison journalists in reprisal for their reporting, citizens will be left without access to uncensored news of domestic issues.
Critics are not traitors, and public officials should not be immune from criticism from the people they serve. We ask you to demonstrate confident leadership by showing more tolerance for criticism, and urge you to use the power of your office to ensure these journalists are released from custody and all charges against them dropped. Journalists should never face detention or imprisonment for the exercise of their duty.
H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal
H.E. Maïtine Djoumbe, Ambassador of Chad to the United States
Jean-Bernard Padaré, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Chad
H.E. Michel Reveyrand-de Menthon, Ambassador of France to the Republic of Tchad
H.E. Mark Boulware, Ambassador of the United States to the Republic of Tchad
Pansy Tlakula, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Med S.K. Kaggwa, Special Rapporteur on Prisons and Conditions of Detention, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Reine Alapini-Gansou, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa, African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Antoine Bernard, Chief Executive Officer, International Federation for Human Rights
Arnold Tsunga, Director, Africa Program, International Commission of Jurists