CHAD - France

Chad claims deported RFI reporter was working illegally

The streets of N'Djamena
The streets of N'Djamena EU-AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO

Chad has claimed that it deported RFI reporter Laurent Correau for working illegally in the country, following protests by RFI management and condemnation by the French government.

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Correau was deported from Chad on Tuesday evening after being detained by security forces at his N’Djamena hotel. Plain-clothed officers failed to produce a deportation order or offer any explanation.

Called upon to justify the deportation, and the brusque way in which it was carried out, Chadian Communications Minister Hassan Sylla Bakari told RFI that Correau had broken Chad’s laws by failing to get the necessary written accreditation to report in his country. 

“Mr Correau began to work illegally and that’s why the security services deported him,” he said.

Correau arrived in Chad last Thursday to prepare a series of reports ahead of the trial of former Chadian president Hissène Habré, slated for 20 July in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. 

He told RFI he “went through the usual registration procedures” and that the authorities clearly said “he could start work while waiting for the written official document”.

He was able to “work normally” for four days before his sudden arrest.

But Bakari contested Correau’s version of events.

“Chad does not have verbal authorisation in order to obtain accreditation,” he told RFI.

Correau claimed he was manhandled during his arrest, as confirmed by witnesses.

He and Reed Brody, a Human Rights Watch spokesperson, were slapped in the face resulting in Correau losing his glasses. 

Asked about the heavy-handed treatment, Bakari told RFI Correau had “offered strong resistance” to his arrest. 

French government spokesperson Stephane Le Foll said he “strongly condemned the violence in the name of the government,” adding that journalists “must be able to do their job and be respected”.

The president of the Chadian Union of Journalists Mahamat Saleh Ben Malala told RFI the use of violence was “unacceptable” and called upon Chadian authorities to “respect press freedom”.

Some dignitaries seemed to want to prevent journalists from doing their job, Malala added. “We don’t understand why, but we’re asking ourselves these kind of questions.”

Meanwhile, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius has stressed France’s attachment to freedom of the press.

RFI has protested against the deportation.

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