The charge appears to be completely spurious because Allahondoum has been a journalist for more than ten years in Chad.
He is the publisher of Le Visionnaire, a newspaper he founded two years ago. Before that, he was the publisher of the newspaper L’Union and he worked for other print and radio outlets. He has a press card issued by the High Council for Communication, which regulates Chad’s media, and he heads the Chadian media owners union.
“We condemn this judicial farce and call for the immediate release of this journalist, who just did his job by reporting a story with supporting documents,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head RSF’s Africa desk. “The absurd charges brought against him raise doubts about judicial independence in Chad.”
Following his arrest on 17 October, Allahondoum was held by the judicial police for nearly a week, during which he was subjected to interrogations designed to make him reveal his sources for the 11 October story in Le Visionnaire, which clearly upset the government.
The article developed a story first published in the Lettre du Continent, a Paris-based newsletter, about the use of aircraft owned by the Chadian airline Air Inter 1 to transport arms to Syria.
According to Le Visionnaire’s article, the civil aviation minister, who is also the sister of Chad’s First Lady, suspended the airline’s licence on 2 August but then inexplicably rescinded her decision. After it was announced that the United States was freezing visas for Chadian citizens – a freeze that the article linked to the minister’s actions – the minister was fired and Air Inter 1’s directors were placed under investigation.
The article was accompanied by profiles of Air Inter 1 CEO Tarsi Mathias, First Lady Hinda Deby Itno, Prime Minister Albert Pahimi Padacké, the CEO of ASkyAIr, President Zakaria Deby Itno’s son, and two ministers, including the First Lady’s sister.
The president’s family is off-limits for Chad’s media and the few journalists who dare to violate the taboo are liable to be harassed. The publisher of the newspaper L’Eclairage, Nestor Déli Sainzoumi, was accused of defamation in July after publishing an article implicating the president’s brother, Daoussa Deby, in illegal sugar trafficking. Sainzoumi is still being tried.
Chad is ranked 121st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.