Tribune Info publisher Eric Kokinangué and Mutations publisher Malachie Dionbé Mbaigara have been in hiding since they began getting threatening phone calls from the ANS, Chad’s counter-espionage and intelligence agency, that depends directly from the Presidential palace.
“We condemn these attempts to intimidate journalists and we urge the authorities to respect the rule of law,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Practices of this kind just perpetuate the prevailing violence and impunity, which are incompatible with lasting democratization.”
Mbaigara has been harassed ever since he announced in his newspaper earlier this month that he would reveal the identity of “false journalists” working for the ANS. On 21 February, he was kidnapped from his office in N'Djamena by two Arabic-speaking armed men, who asked him why he was writing about the ANS. They drove him across the city in their car and released him a few hours later.
Two days later, Mbaigara and his editor received an unexplained summons from the head of the ANS. “We refused to go,” Mbaigara told RSF. “We will respond if there is a plaintiff and a summons from the judicial police.”
A worrying disappearance
Kokinangué’s home was searched by masked gunmen on the evening of 25 February. He was not there at the time, but his wife and children were, and they were very upset by the raid, he said. He told RSF he did not understand the reasons for this search.
Shortly thereafter, the same men telephoned Tribune Info journalist Daniel Ngadjadoum and summoned him to a meeting. He refused to go. On the evening of the next day, 26 February, two gunmen in a car with tinted windows and no licence plate kidnapped Ngadjadoum as he left church. His whereabouts have been unknown since then.
Some local sources link his abduction to a column he wrote on 22 February that was headlined, “President Idriss Déby, deceptive poker player.” It recalled that Déby, Chad’s president since 1990, had promised in interviews in the early 2000s that he would not to run for office again, but amended the constitution in 2005 and was reelected yet again in 2016.
The president of the Union of Chadian Journalists has condemned these acts of violence and has urged those who feel they have been defamed by journalists to seek redress via the courts rather than resorting to the use of terror.
All of Chad’s online social networks were disconnected during the April 2016 elections and were not restored until a few weeks ago. Frequent arbitrary arrests of journalists and intimidation of media outlets perpetuate a climate of fear and discourage criticism of the government.
Chad is ranked 127th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.