On September 9, 2021, judicial police in Puteaux, a Paris suburb, questioned Thomas Dietrich, a reporter for the news website Le Média, about his recent encounter with a government official from the central African country of Chad, according to a statement by the local journalists’ union SNJ-CGT, a report by Le Média, and Dietrich, who communicated with CPJ via email.
The questioning was prompted by a criminal complaint filed by Mahamat Ismaël Chaïbo, the former head of Chad’s National Security Agency, the country’s intelligence agency, according to those sources.
French authorities are currently investigating the 2008 disappearance of Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh, a Chadian politician and opposition leader, who went missing during Chaïbo’s time as the head of the country’s intelligence service, according to news reports.
In a September 3 video report published by Le Média, Dietrich is seen approaching Chaïbo’s apartment in Paris and asking him about that investigation. In his criminal complaint, Chaïbo alleged that Dietrich threatened him with death and used racial slurs during that encounter, according to Le Média’s report and Dietrich.
Dietrich told CPJ that he denied those allegations, and he also published raw footage on Facebook showing his full encounter with Chaïbo, during which Dietrich is not heard making threats or using racial language.
Chaïbo’s complaint alleges that Dietrich’s comments constituted threats to commit a crime, the journalist told CPJ. If charged and convicted, Dietrich could face up to three years in prison for that offense, according to the French penal code.
Police questioned Dietrich for around two hours in the presence of his lawyer, the journalist told CPJ, saying he was in the police offices for about three hours in total. He said the officers asked about the alleged threats, as well as his broader investigation into Chaïbo.
In a video posted to Twitter, Dietrich said, “These accusations are completely unfounded; their goal is to hamper my investigative work and I consider the interrogation as a form of pressure.”
While Dietrich has not been formally charged, police have not dismissed Chaïbo’s complaint as of today, and Dietrich said he was awaiting an update for the next step in his case.
CPJ emailed the Judicial Police and the Chadian Embassy in France for comment, but did not receive any replies. Chaïbo did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for comment and CPJ was unable to find any public comments he has made concerning the case.