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Community radio journalist held by gendarmes in southern town

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of journalist and human rights activist Marcel Ngargoto, who has been held by gendarmes in the southern town of Moissala since 31 January 2007. Ngargoto works for Radio Brakoss, a Moissala-based community radio. He is also secretary-general of the organisation Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF).

"The Moissala authorities are exploiting a state of emergency for their own ends," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is not Radio Brakoss's first run-in with them, and they are using the resumption of fighting to punish those who annoy them. They have no grounds for claiming that Ngargoto poses a potential danger to the nation. This kind of behaviour just exacerbates tension between the authorities and the population."

Ngargoto has been held at the headquarters of the Moissala gendarmerie since the morning of 31 January without being formally notified of any charges. DHSF President Deuzoumbé Passalet said the local authorities accuse him of a lack of tact in the way he reports "sensitive news liable to endanger national cohesion."

Under a state of emergency that was proclaimed in November 2006 following intercommunal violence and fighting between government troops and rebels in the eastern provinces, the print media are subject to strict supervision by a censorship office, while radio stations are banned from covering sensitive subjects.

Aside from the pro-government daily "Le Progrès", the N'Djamena newspapers have been appearing with many of their articles removed. This has affected their earnings and they are running out of money. Ngargoto's arrest is the first act of overt coercion towards Chad's privately-owned radio stations even if they have been under close surveillance.

Iranian political refugee Tchanguiz Vatankhah had to resign last year as Radio Brakoss's director and promise to stop meddling in Chadian affairs after being arrested twice and harassed for months by the government.

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