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Radio director released after three days in prison, station still closed; IFJ calls for authorities to end media repression

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 21 January 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Chadian Authorities to End Media Repression

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Chadian authorities to end a wave of media repression, which started in November 2006 in the wake of violent conflict in the eastern part of the country and has most recently been seen in the detention and intimidation of media executives.

Lazare Djekourninga Kaoutar, the director of FM Liberté radio station, is charged with "broadcasting false information." He was released on 18 January after three days in jail but the station is still closed. He is due to appear in court today.

"This latest arrest is another aspect of the ongoing media repression by Chadian authorities," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa office. "We call on the Chadian police and the government to put an end to the unfair charges against Lazare and reopen the radio station immediately."

According to local sources at least two other media managers have faced intimidation by Chadian authorities and fear for their safety.

Kaoutar, the director of FM Liberté based in the capital city N'Djamena, was arrested on the evening of 16 January. Earlier in the afternoon, police officers arrived at the station asking for the director's whereabouts. He was not in the office so police arrested editorial coordinator Madji Madji Odjitan, sent the staff away and sealed FM Liberté's offices. Odjitan was later released when Kaoutar went to the police station to find out what was going on.

The station's program director Eliakim Vanambyl told IFJ that the director was "detained in relation to a statement of the Chadian Association for the Defense of Consumers' Rights (ADC) that we broadcasted this week". The association statement said that corrupt police officers were asking people to pay twice the official price for identity cards.

Daouda Elhadj Adam, president of ADC, was arrested on 17 January in connection with the same statement.

Five Chadian media organizations in a joint declaration condemned on 18 January the "complicit silence of the High Council of Communication," which has not protested the arrest, and announced the "freezing of the participation of its representatives in the Council".

In December 2007, Nadjikimo Benoudjita, editor of the weekly newspaper Notre Temps, was held illegally by authorities for four days in connection with an article he wrote accusing the President of ethnic cleansing. He was released on bail and charged with "inciting tribal hate". He is due to be tried on 29 January. Notre Temps is still closed.

In November 2006, the Chadian National Assembly extended for six months the state of emergency issued in most of the country to put an end to violence in the East. By extending the state of emergency, the assembly also extended the law that subjects private newspapers to preliminary approval by government officials before publication. Radio stations were also limited in covering the country's problems.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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