Chadian editor subjected to shocking prison conditions
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the release of Chadian newspaper editor Martin Inoua Doulguet and condemns the appalling conditions in which he is serving a three-year jail sentence – sleeping on the ground in an improvised cell and having to pay to use a clean shower and toilet.
The editor of the Salam Info quarterly, Doulguet shares this cell with the two other detainees who built it from palm fronds, plastic sheets and sheet metal. It is just five square metres in area, including the filthy corner that serves as a latrine and shower space. “I have to pay 3,000 CFA francs [4.5 euros] every two weeks to have access to a cleaner shower and toilets,” he told RSF.
Arrested on 16 August in connection with his coverage of a case involving a former health minister who was accused by her niece of sexual assault, Doulguet was sentenced to three years in prison on 23 September on charges of libel and “association for the purpose of computer crime.” Since then, he has been sleeping on a mat on the ground and has been limited to visits of a just a few minutes at a time that are held “standing in a corridor.” His lawyer, Olivier Gouara, who describes these conditions as “atrocious,” also says Doulguet has no access to a prison nurse for treatment to the ailments he is suffering.
A French lawyer who recently visited Doulguet said he is also exposed to physical danger. “There is an ill-lit area, a sort of punishment area called the ‘boat,’ where he was taken after being given a beating and where he was manhandled by the prisoners who are packed in there,” the lawyer reported. Doulguet had previously managed to report, with supporting photos, that he was attacked and beaten by prison guards "acting on instructions” on 23 September.
“As well as being deprived of his freedom because of what he wrote, this journalist is being detained in shocking conditions,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “What with beatings and being kept in a cell that poses a threat to his health, everything is being done to humiliate him. We call on the authorities to end the mistreatment and persecution, and to release him provisionally pending the outcome of an appeal.”
Doulguet’s lawyer told RSF that he has finally received an official copy of his client’s sentence and that, as a result, he can at last file an appeal.
Salam Info and its editor have often been the targets of threats, attacks and sanctions for covering corruption and misgovernance. Just two days after launching the quarterly in February 2018, Doulguet was arrested and held for five days on the grounds that he had published it in the capital after obtaining a publishing permit in the southern city of Bongor.
A few weeks later, Doulguet was detained again for two days as a result of a lawsuit by the local branch of the Red Cross over a story accusing it of misusing its funding. The case was dismissed when it came to court because no Red Cross representative turned up for the hearing. The suit that former mining minister Gomdigué Baïdi Lomey brought against Doulguet over a story about a questionable contract ended in a similar fashion. Doulguet received a series of summonses from the judicial police and then a prosecutor convened a face-to-face meeting between Doulguet and Lomey. But the former minister did not turn up when a court hearing was held on 10 December 2018.
Doulguet has also been the target of criminal acts. His computer was stolen, his car was set on fire in November 2018 and there was an attempted arson attack on his home on the night of 19 July 2019. It was in July 2019 that he was ordered to suspend publishing for three months for allegedly insulting his former boss, the owner of the newspaper Abba Garde.
Doulguet has also been threatened by government officials such as Abakar Mahamat Adoum, who was fired as a presidential adviser shortly after Doulguet published a story questioning his handling of a post office repair contract, and presidential chief of staff Kalzeubé Pahimi Deubet, who was arrested on suspicion of corruption two weeks ago.
Chad is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.