DW editor Eric Topona spent 106 days in prison in his home country Chad in 2013. He was accused of writing "subversive" articles and charged with "threatening constitutional order."
Topona wrote a book about his time in prison, the support he received during and after that time, his escape from Chad and his arrival in Germany. The original French version of the book is titled “Misère et grandeur de la liberté d’informer,” which refers to the opportunities and pitfalls sorrounding freedom of information. Topona presented his book - with an introduction written by DW Director General Peter Limbourg - on January 24 at a joint press conference of Reporters without Borders (RSF) and DW in Paris.
"Writing is like therapy for me," says 35-year-old Topona, a father of three. He spent months on the 180 pages, writing before and after work. “I am happy that the book is finished and that it is over,” he says, “but it was important to write everything down and to talk about the terrible time in prison. Not only for me - I wanted to show other journalists how important our work is and how important it is to do it professionally. There are too many journalists in African countries who don't dare to talk about certain topics and censor themselves.“
"Journalism is a real passion for me"
Topona narrowly escaped life imprisonment thanks to his DW colleagues in the French-language service, the department head and the director general. RSF and other organizations also supported him. The verdict against Eric Topona was finally given and he was released from prison on probation. As a journalist, however, he could no longer work in Chad under the conditions of his probation - he would have risked immediate arrest again. Topona received anonymous threats. "This was very bad, because journalism is a real passion for me." Left with little choice but to leave Chad, he escaped on an adventurous journey to neighboring Cameroon, where the Chadian secret service tried to intimidate him, and then on to Germany.
To this day, Topona remains a sharp critic of the Chadian regime and of President Idriss Déby, who has ruled Chad for almost 30 years. "However, I am not an opponent in the political sense," stresses Eric Topona. "But as a journalist, you simply deal with political issues daily and scrutinize them."
On January 24, Eric Topona presented his book in the presence of Arnaud Froger, head of the RSF’s Africa department and Dr. Dirke Köpp, head of DW’s French-language service, at Paris City Hall in the 2nd Arrondissement. His next project is to translate the book into German - he is still looking for sponsors for this.