Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has expressed concern over the recent sentencing of a radio journalist Ali Hamata Achène in Chad to six months in prison and a fine for criticizing the judicial system in a provincial city.
The reporter for DJA FM in Mongo was arrested on 26 December and charged with defamation and contempt of court over a Facebook post about the local judicial system’s slowness and cases of alleged corruption.
This marks the second instance in recent months of a Chadian journalist being jailed for defamation, with the editor of the Ndjamena-based quarterly Salam Info, Martin Inoua Doulguet, also receiving a prison sentence for his coverage of a case involving a former health minister.
RSF’s head of Africa Desk, Arnaud Froger, stated that “giving prison sentences for ordinary press offences is a serious abuse” and that the merits of these cases have been questionable and the sanctions imposed unjustified and disproportionate.
He further added that Chadian law enables plaintiffs to have a journalist detained whenever they dislike what has been reported, which constitutes a serious attack on press freedom and a major threat to journalism in Chad.
During a forum on digital communication in Chad in July 2019, President Idriss Deby Itno urged citizens to express themselves with complete freedom and to freely criticize the conduct of public affairs and the actions of those in power.
Chad is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
The sentencing of Achène and Doulguet highlights the ongoing challenges faced by journalists in the country.
RSF has called on the Chadian authorities to release Achène and Doulguet, and to take steps to protect journalists from harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment.