Aly Mahamat Bello, a reporter for state-owned Télé Tchad, his cameraman, Abakar Mahamad Seid, and their driver were assaulted and detained by members of the Police Mobile Intervention Unit (GMIP) in the capital, N’Djamena, on 26 March while covering enforcement of measures taken by the government to combat the Covid-19 epidemic. According to a statement issued by the Union of Chadian Journalists (UJT), the journalists were interrogated for three hours at a police station before finally being released.
Chad has so far officially reported only seven coronavirus cases but has already taken several measures to restrict movements. Bars, restaurants and schools are closed and gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned, although enforcement is far from effective, as journalists have seen. A curfew also came into effect yesterday evening in the capital and several provincial cities.
“It is unacceptable for journalists to be attacked by the police even when they helping to increase public awareness and combat the pandemic through their reporting,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The media are more essential than ever during the current public health crisis, so we call on the Chadian authorities to guarantee their operational freedom by giving the police firm instructions that reporters must be able to work without fear of reprisals.”
According to Tracker-19, a newly created RSF website that tracks censorship and attacks and threats against journalists linked to the Covid-19 crisis, a score of press freedom violations have already been registered in sub-Saharan Africa, including 11 cases of journalists being attacked, usually by the police.
Chad is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.