RFI reporter assaulted in Chad, then expelled

Abuja, Nigeria, June 26, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Chadian authorities’ ejection this week of a French journalist. Laurent Correau, reporter for Radio France Internationale, was assaulted by police alongside an international human rights defender before being expelled, according to news reports.

Two plainclothes policemen seized Correau from the restaurant of his hotel on Tuesday evening in the capital N’Djamena, from where he was escorted to the airport and put on an Air France plane to Paris with no reasons or official deportation documents given, RFI reported.

Correau said he tried to make several phone calls before leaving the hotel and the police became impatient. Human Rights Watch counsel and spokesperson Reed Brody was with Correau at the time and tried to photograph the badge that one police officer produced. The officer slapped both Brody and Correau, who lost his eyeglasses in the chaos, according to RFI.

Correau told RFI he arrived in Chad on June 18 to prepare a series of reports ahead of the trial of ousted former Chadian President Hissène Habré, which is due to begin on July 20 in the Senegalese capital Dakar. Correau said he went through the usual registration process on June 19, when Chadian authorities told him that he could start work while awaiting official accreditation. Before being expelled, Correau had been working for four days, meeting with victims of Habré’s alleged crimes and influential people during his regime, news reports said.

Chadian Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari told RFI that Correau was assaulted after he had “offered strong resistance” to his arrest. He said, “Chad does not have verbal authorization in order to obtain accreditation,” which led security services to deport Correau for working illegally.

“That authorities expelled Laurent Correau without any official deportation procedure makes a mockery of their claim that he was expelled for improper accreditation,” said Peter Nkanga, CPJ West Africa representative. “We call authorities to allow all journalists, including Correau, to report freely in Chad ahead of the unprecedented trial of the country’s former dictator.”

Correau told CPJ he suspects he was deported because of interviews he conducted and because of a report he had written in 2007 titled “Tchad-Soudan: La révolution à l’ombre des 4X4,” in which he extensively interviewed rebels at the Chad-Sudan border fighting the Chadian government. “At the time, the Chad government sent a letter of protest to RFI over my report,” Correau told CPJ.

RFI protested Correau’s ejection, while the French government and the Chadian Union of Journalists condemned the attack, according to news reports.

Habré faces trial on charges of crimes against humanity, torture and war crimes, allegedly committed between 1982 and 1990 when he ruled Chad, at the Extraordinary African Chambers in Senegal. His will be the first trial of a head of state under a law of universal jurisdiction that allows national courts to prosecute the most serious crimes committed abroad by a foreigner and against foreign victims, according to Human Rights Watch.