A court in the capital N’Djamena yesterday found the privately owned weekly La Voix “not guilty” of charges against it and lifted a provisional order for automatic seizure of all copies of the paper made on 3 December 2009. An appeal will be heard on 13 January
“We are already preparing our next issue and we think we should be able to publish again from 12 January”, the editor, Eloi Miandadji, told Reporters Without Borders. “We also have high hopes for a decision in our favour on appeal”.
The lower court yesterday discharged the case “for reasons of ineligibility”. The newspaper’s lawyer, Jean-Bernard Padaré, told Agence France-Presse (AFP), “It is a victory for the law and the proof that La Voix is legally constituted”
“The hounding of La Voix had, with the seizure of copies of the paper but above all the abduction of its editor [Innocent Ebodé] and its accountant, taken on unacceptable and disturbing proportions” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “We welcome with great relief a ruling that finally puts right an injustice”, it added.
03.12.09 - Judge orders automatic seizure of all of newspaper’s issues
A court in N’Djamena today ordered the automatic seizure of all issues published by the privately-owned weekly La Voix. “We condemn this baseless decision, which reflects a desire to close the newspaper,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The interior ministry’s threats have unfortunately been carried out.”
“This is a political decision, one that is marred by irregularities,” said one of the newpaper’s lawyers, Jean-Bernard Padaré. La Voix hopes to continue publishing.
The court could not legally order the newspaper’s closure so it issued the automatic seizure order because the effect would be the same. The grounds given by the judge was the absence of an editor. In fact, La Voix does have an editor. It is Innocent Ebodé, a Cameroonian citizen who was deported on 14 October although there were no grounds for his deportation.
Reporters Without Borders has been told that Ebodé is now on his way back to Chad with the aim of challenging this decision.
30.11.2009 Authorities continue to hound new weekly, seek its closure
Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the government’s harassment of the new, privately-owned weekly La Voix. On 28 November, one of its reporters was verbally abused by the interior minister and then detained for several hours while, on 3 December, a court is due to rule on a government complaint challenging its legality.
“After deporting La Voix’s editor, a Cameroonian national, and putting strong pressure on its shareholders and members for more than six weeks, the Chadian authorities are now trying to obtain the newspaper’s closure,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“We vigorously condemn these appalling manoeuvres against a publication that has done nothing wrong except enjoy a degree of success since its launch last May and remain outside the government’s control,” the press freedom organisation added. “We urge the authorities to abandon these proceedings and allow the newspaper to operate freely.”
While covering the installation of a new police director general on 28 November, La Voix reporter Eloi Miandadji introduced himself to interior and public security minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir and requested an interview. Bachir reacted by shouting abuse at him and, in the presence of witnesses, said La Voix “will soon be closed.” Miandadji was briefly detained and was forced to sign an undertaking not to publish anything about the ceremony, while the memory card of his camera was confiscated.
Meanwhile, after hearing the government’s complaint against La Voix on 26 November, a court in N’Djamena is due to issue a ruling on 3 December.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a journalist based in N’Djamena told Reporters Without Borders: “We all know that this newspaper has everything in order, both administratively and financially. The government accuses it of receiving funding from abroad, especially France. That is ridiculous.”
La Voix’s shareholders were summoned for questioning at the headquarters of the security police on 18 November. A month before that, on 14 October, the newspaper’s Cameroonian editor, Innocent Ebodé, was deported although his papers were in order. For more information.
Chad was ranked 132nd out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.