DW demands release of Chadian correspondent | Africa | DW | 13.05.2013
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Africa

DW demands release of Chadian correspondent

DW Director-General Erik Bettermann has demanded the immediate release in Chad of the DW correspondent Eric Topona, who was detained a week ago. Topona is also the secretary-general of the Union of Chadian Journalists.

Deutsche Welle head Erik Bettermann joined the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Border on Monday in demanding the release in Chad of DW's French-language correspondent Eric Topona.

The 29-year-old Topona was arrested on May 6 in Chad's capital N'Djamena for allegedly publishing subversive Internet texts. He had been summoned as a witness to a court hearing. He denies authorship of the disputed texts which allegedly called for a public uprising.

'Extremely concerned'

Bettermann said DW was "extremely concerned" about Topona's wellbeing and appealed to Chadian authorities to respect press freedoms and civil law principles.

It was "unacceptable" that the 29-year-old had been held for days without being heard in court, Bettermann said.

DW management in its press statement said it had learned that Topona was not scheduled to appear before the court until May 25. Topona denied authorship of allegedly subversion texts published in the Internet, it said.

Last Monday, Topona's lawyer Sobdibe Zoua told the French news agency AFP that the correspondent's arrest in N'Djamena was linked to the arrest in March of Jean Etienne Laokole, a contributor to a regime-critical blog.

Harassed in the past

Reporters Without Borders had called last Monday for Topona's "immediate and unconditional release."

"The arrest and charging of Topona, who has been harassed several times in the past in connection with his journalistic activities, are unacceptable and constitute a flagrant violation of freedom of information," Reporters Without Borders said.

Last Wednesday, Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno denied waging a crackdown against opposition figures in Chad.

On May 2, Chad's government said it had foiled a coup attempt and arrested several suspects, including two top generals. Senior prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Youssouf named one of them as Weiddig Assi Assoue, a former cabinet minister.

France said it recognized Chad's role in the Sahel region but called on both Chad's government and the opposition in the oil-producing former French colony to engage in constructive dialogue.

Early this year, Chad sent around 2,000 troops to Mali to contribute to a French-led military offensive to dislodge Islamist extremists who had seized swathes of the Malian north.

ipj/kms (Reuters, epd, dpa, AFP)