Chadian authorities use suspension, apparent kidnap attempt to intimidate news website
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns actions designed to intimidate and silence Chad’s most popular news website, Alwihda Info, including an apparent attempt to abduct its publisher and an eight-day suspension by the media regulator.
Alwihda Info publisher Djimet Wiché says he found himself the target of a car chase as he drove home in the capital, N'Djamena, on the evening of 26 August, when he suddenly realised he was being pursued by two white Toyota Corolla cars with tinted windows. This is the type of car used by Chad’s intelligence agency, the National Security Agency (ANS), local sources say.
Wiché adds that he escaped his pursuers by seeking refuge in the home of strangers and eventually managed to reach his own home at dawn.
On 25 August, the day before this car chase, the High Authority for Media and Broadcasting (HAMA) announced that Alwihda Info was suspended from publishing for eight days on the grounds of comments “liable to undermine cohesion and discipline within the army” in two articles with Wiché’s by-line.
The first, published on 19 August, was about an army colonel’s dismissal by the head of Chad’s military junta, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Déby. The second criticised a speech that the junta chief gave on 20 August.
When contacted by RSF about the suspension, HAMA president Abderamane Barka Doningar said: “The HAMA assumes responsibility for the decision. The journalist asked us to show clemency, and we responded.”
The attacks targeting Alwihda Info in the past few days are very disturbing. All journalists, including those working for what is Chad’s most popular news site, must be able to cover stories related to the army and governmental institutions. Alwihda Info’s publisher, Djimet Wiché, has had to endure the most complete absence of security since 26 August. We condemn the attempts to intimidate him and his media outlet, and we ask the authorities to guarantee his protection.
On 26 August, the day the suspension was announced, ANS officers prevented Alwihda Info reporter Ahmat Abdoulaye from covering a transport ministry event in the northern city of Bardaï although he had been invited to it.
Abdoulaye told RSF they cited the HAMA decision as their grounds for barring him. This was illegal, in RSF’s view, because suspending a media outlet from publishing does not ban its journalists from gathering information in the field.