Innocent Ebodé, editor of the privately-owned weekly La Voix published in the capital N'Djamena was expelled from Chad yesterday after the authorities accused the Cameroon national of “staying illegally” in Chad.
“The summary expulsion of this editor is both shocking and unwarranted”, Reporters Without Borders said. “This may well be the first move in a bid to gag this newspaper since it seems likely La Voix could be made to pay for his alleged ’irregularity’”.
“And why should this happen now, when the weekly has been publishing since May this year? We urge the authorities to provide an immediate explanation”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Ebodé was yesterday taken by Chadian officials to the Cameroon side of the border city of Kousseri, after being summoned in the morning by state security officials in N'Djamena, and taken from there to counter intelligence, where after a two-hour interview in the presence of his two lawyers the journalist was told that he was “staying illegally”. He had in fact lost his passport and his residency permit but holds a consular ID card.
The newspaper on 13 October carried a front page article headlined "Purchase of weapons in France: Chad spends 8.5 billions CFA francs”, based on official information released by the French defence ministry, revealing that Chad had become France’s second biggest customer for military hardware.
Three weeks earlier, La Voix published an article referring to the likely departure of the Prime Minister, Youssouf Saleh Abbas, and speculating about his possible successor. The presidency issued a statement accusing the newspaper of aiming to “undermine the administration”.
Other sources suggested that the weekly could have been targeted for a recent article about embezzlement within the Bank of Central African States (BEAC).
“The pretext used by the authorities to expel me does not hold water. I have a consular card and Chad and Cameroon are members of The Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), I should therefore be allowed to move around and work freely”, Ebodé told Reporters Without Borders. “I think that above all our articles anger the authorities and they want to deprive the newspaper of my leadership".