Court suspends head of human rights organisation; access to WhatsApp blocked
🇹🇩#Tchad : Mahamat Nour Ibedou a été suspendu de son poste de secrétaire général de la @CTDDH sur décision de justice— The Observatory (@OBS_defenders) September 1, 2020
📣@OBS_defenders dénonce cette entrave à la liberté d’association et appelle à la fin du harcèlement des défenseurs des droits humains !
Court suspends the secretary general of a human rights organisation
On 12th August 2020, the president of the High Court of N'Djamena signed a court order suspending the secretary general of the human rights organisation Convention tchadienne de défense des droits de l’Homme (CTDDH; Chadian Convention for the Protection of Human Rights) Mahamat Nour Ibedou. The judicial decision followed a complaint by Ahamat Hassaballah, a former member of the organisation who was dismissed from the organisation in July 2020 on accusations of embezzlement. Hassaballah accuses Nour Ibedou of violating the organisation's statutes and internal rules. The judicial move was condemned by several Chadian human rights organisations. CTDDH fears that authorities have used an internal dispute to destabilise the organisation. In a statement, CTDDH's executive committee reportedly described the move as:
"...a cowardly and heinous plot orchestrated by the highest authorities of the country, with the help of Chadian justice which is in fact the armed wing of power." (translated from French)
Update: Live network data from #Chad confirm that #WhatsApp remains blocked on Airtel and Tigo despite hopes earlier today of a restoration.— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) August 18, 2020
Rights defender @koundougoumi has called for a day to speak up for internet rights, 5 September 2020 🗓 #Tchad
📰 https://t.co/K4XU49LWF6 pic.twitter.com/c7P3b5YgLq
Access to WhatsApp blocked
Since 22nd July 2020, access to social media, with WhatsApp in particular targeted, has been blocked and remained blocked as of 18th August 2020, said internet freedom CSO NetBlocks. Although the reasons for the internet restrictions were initially not clear, government officials confirmed to press agency AFP on 3rd August 2020 that it was a 'temporary measure' meant to prevent 'the spread of messages of incitement to hatred and division'. According to media sources, the measure came after a video of an altercation between a military officer and mechanics was spread on social media. In the video, taken on 14th July 2020, the officer is seen being attacked after he shot at two mechanics, killing one of them.
As reported previously on the Monitor, authorities in Chad have resorted to internet restrictions on several occasions: between March 2018 and July 2019, access to social media and messaging applications such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger was restricted. In 2016, similar restrictions were imposed for a period of 235 days.
Report: Freedom of expression violations during the COVID-19 pandemic
In a report on human rights violations during the COVID-19 pandemic between 19th March and 1st June 2020, the human rights organisation Ligue tchadienne des droits de l'homme (LTDH; Chadian League of Human Rights) highlighted violations that occurred in the context of the pandemic, including of the right to access to information and freedom of expression. Regarding freedom of expression, the report mentions violations against several journalists in April 2020, which was also condemned by the Union of Chadian Journalists (UTJ):
- Editor of the newspaper N'Djamena Al Djedida Souleyman Abdelkerim was detained for four hours on 14th April on accusations of having opened the newspaper's offices;
- Journalist for Al-Chahed Jules-Daniel Yo-bounkilam was detained for three hours on 8th April on the same accusations;
- Director of radio station Soleil Abdelaziz Abassi reportedly received death threats from the prefect of Gagal on 11th April in Pala for an interactive broadcast on the fight against the spread of COVID-19;
- Editor-in-Chief of the ONAMA (National Office of Media and Audiovisual) regional station in Moundou Ahmat Al-Hissein Ahmat was arrested on 12th April 2020 after he presented the 7 PM news;
- Barimngone Mbaihigui Basile, antenna Chief for Radio Kar-Uba was arrested on 12th April 2020 in Moundou after the closure of the antenna despite having obtained special authorisation by the Governor of Moundou;
- Editor for the online news outlet Tachad.com Kita Ezéchiel was detained and held for six hours in the Gassi district in N’Djamena when he was out reporting.