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This article is a machine translation from French. Click ‘Français’ in the menu to read the original text.

This Friday, 27 November 2020, several journalists in training at the private radio Fm Liberté, in N’djaména, were arrested by the police. Among them was a group of initiators of the Citizen Forum organised by civil society, including the activist Kemba Diddah Alain.

Initially scheduled for 27 November 2020, the Citizens’ Forum (le Forum Citoyen, a forum intended to be a reflection on the socio-economic and political situation in Chad by civil society) was banned by the public authorities on the grounds of ‘Coronavirus’. Some members of the organisation found this ban unjust and insisted on giving an interview to radio Fm liberté to explain the facts. But as usual, in the early hours of the morning, the police had already stormed the headquarters of the private radio Fm Liberté where the initiators of the citizen forum were to go, which was cancelled. Other stations in the city were subsequently stormed by the police. This scene is not new in Chad, since a few days ago, the same police had stormed the headquarters and homes of political leaders, notably at ‘Transformateurs’ (a political movement created by Dr. Succès Masra, but still banned from operating by the government in Chad), the headquarters of the UNDR party of Saleh Kebzabo (former Chadian opposition leader and president of his party) for peaceful and non-violent political meetings. Journalists from several media outlets were in training at Radio Fm Liberté that day. All were kidnapped and arrested among them were the coordinator of the citizen movement ‘The Times’ (Les Temps, a young citizen movement created by young Chadians for citizenship issues in their country), Kemba Didah Alain and two of his comrades. The arrest of too many civil society leaders, the kidnapping of journalists and the harassment faced by opposition leaders are sufficient proof of the Chadian authorities’ lack of willingness to open up the political space that would allow all Chadian citizens to feel concerned about their country’s social and development projects. Large-scale demonstrations and mobilisations are taking place on a daily basis by the government in power, without the case of the coronavirus causing any concern. The Chadian head of state himself has been campaigning for several weeks now with rallies of thousands of people without respect for the gestures of the barriers. Stifling the space for free and peaceful expression is nothing more than hardening the already difficult social society of Chadians. In the constitution of the Republic of Chad it is mentioned in a golden letter that “the freedoms of opinion and expression, communication, conscience, religion, the press, movement, association, assembly, circulation, demonstration are guaranteed to all.”

In a statement made public by the Chadian Convention for the Defense of Human Rights (CTDDH), one of the civil society organizations also victim of several harassment, said it was deeply horrified by the violence and police torture inflicted on journalists, leaders of political parties and independent civil society organizations on Friday, November 27, 2020. “Once again, Deby’s repressive system is cracking down, and this time it was the talking press that was the victim. After the cowardly and arbitrary attempts to destabilise the CTDDH by its odious armed arm, the Chadian justice system, after the encirclement of the headquarters and homes of the political parties of the Transformers, the UNDR, of the PLD and after having besieged the LTDH premises and violated the headquarters of the UST after having sequestered the members present, the dictatorship crossed a new threshold with the shameless molestation of journalists of the private press during a seminar in the premises of Radio Fm-Liberté in which tear gas grenades had been dropped.” Employees and journalists in training were not spared underlines the statement signed by its Secretary for Human Rights Supervision and Training ABBAS ALHASSAN. The statement continues: The Chadian Convention for the Defence of Human Rights, while condemning these police blunders, requires the immediate suspension and arrest of the perpetrators before they are brought before the competent courts.”

While the journalists arrested today were released a few hours later, Kemba Didah Alain and his two comrades are being held at the national police station. They will be presented to the prosecutor on Monday 30 November. In Chad, several voices were raised to condemn this arrest and the violation of the premises of the private radio station Fm Liberté on Tuesday December 1st will be declared ‘radio silence’ day by the closure of all private radio stations as a sign of dissatisfaction with the police blunder. This Monday, November 30, 2020, from 9am, the activist and Coordinator of the Citizen Movement Le Temps Kemba Didah Alain is transferred to the courthouse in N’Djamena. His defence consists of several lawyers dedicated to the cause of freedom and the defence of human rights in Chad. Journalists, activists and opposition political leaders including Saleh Kebzabo of UNDR and Alhabo Ahmat Mahamat of PLD came to support the young activist Kemba Didah Alain After several hours of hearings, the prosecutor in charge of the case decided to place Didah and two of his comrades (a graphic designer who had worked on the banner of the press conference and a motorbike taxi that just brought the graphic designer with the banner) under a committal order. Charges deemed nonsensical by those present were brought against him: “act of rebellion and disturbing public order” In the heat of N’Djamena, the young Didah and his comrades, before the eyes of many people who had remained powerless in the face of the justice of the strongest, took the direction of the Amsinéné (N’Djamena) prison. They will appear in court on 11 December 2020. “Alain Kemba Didah has been placed under arrest for an imaginary crime and will undergo a trial whose verdict is known in advance,” writes Saleh Kebzabo, former leader of the opposition and President of the UNDR party, on his Facebook page.