Abuja, Nigeria, March 6, 2017–Chadian domestic intelligence officers should cease harassing and attempting to intimidate journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. At least two journalists have gone into hiding following harassment from National Security Agency (ANS) officers in recent weeks, and another was detained and forced to apologize for his work.
“Harassment from Chadian National Security Agency officers has created such fear among the press that journalists are going into hiding,” said CPJ West Africa Representative Peter Nkanga. “Authorities should ensure that all journalists, including Eric Kokinague and Malachie Mbaigara, are free to report without fear of reprisal.”
Eric Kokinague, the publisher of the newspaper Tribune Info, which publishes three times a month, went into hiding on February 25 after receiving a warning that armed and masked ANS officers were at his house looking for him, he told CPJ by phone from an undisclosed location.
Kokinague told CPJ that the agents searched the house and demanded from his wife his phone and laptop, which she did not have, and that they left having confiscated only copies of the newspaper’s past editions. Kokinague said that he fears for his life and that he believes the ANS is seeking to punish him for an article in the February 22-28 edition of the newspaper, in which contributor Daniel Ngadjadoum wrote an article calling President Idriss Deby a liar for going back on his promises not to run for office again. Deby was reelected for a fifth term in 2016, following a constitution amendment that allowed him to run again.
ANS officers detained Ngadjadoum on February 26, as he left church, and released him on March 1, after a state prosecutor ordered him released without charge, according to media reports. Ngadjadoum told Agence France-Presse that he wrote an apology letter to the government under threat from General Ismat Acheik, the director-general of the ANS, who questioned him about his writing on Deby, the reports said.
Malachie Mbaigara, the publisher of the weekly Mutations newspaper, also went into hiding after ANS officers detained him from his office in the capital N’Djamena on February 21 and held him for several hours of questioning, according to media reports and Belngar Larme, the president of the Union of Chadian Journalists. The officers questioned him over the paper’s pledge in a previous edition to publish the names of journalists on the payroll of the domestic intelligence agency, the reports said. Larme told CPJ that Mbaigara did not publish the names after his meeting with ANS officers.
General Ismat Acheik, the director general of the ANS, refused to speak with CPJ when reached by telephone. Madeleine Alingue, minister of communications, told CPJ that she was unable to comment.