Chad kicks out its only foreign correspondent

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The Chadian government effectively forced the country’s only permanent foreign correspondent to leave the country on Thursday after withdrawing her work permit without explanation, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists said in Saturday.

It said in a statement received in Accra that Sonia Rolley, a journalist reporting for several France-based media outlets, including Radio France Internationale (RFI), Agence France-Presse (AFP), French daily Libération and international television news channel France 24, left the Chad capital N’Djamena after authorities notified RFI on Tuesday that her work permit had been withdrawn, Rolley told CPJ from Paris.

“It is outrageous that the government should expel a foreign correspondent without offering an explanation,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Chadian authorities clearly want to silence a prominent correspondent who whose coverage was widely followed at home and abroad.”

Chadian authorities had suspended Rolley’s work permit on February 15, justifying the measure by citing the nationwide state of emergency following a rebel attack on N’djamena, according to CPJ research.

The emergency declaration also included media censorship. RFI had tried to persuade the government to lift the suspension once the emergency ended earlier this month and Rolley had remained in Chad during that time.

“The decision did not appear to be linked to any particular story, but Rolley’s reports are widely heard and read in Chad and, thus, are highly scrutinized by the government,” CPJ said. Rolley had been reporting from Chad since October 2006.

She was forced to leave Rwanda in June 2006 after the government refused to renew her visa without explanation. A few months later, Rwanda indefinitely banned RFI following a public row with France over responsibility for the 1994 genocide.

CPJ said it wrote to President Idriss Deby earlier this month to express alarm at the increasing restrictions against Chad’s once-vibrant independent media, particularly following the rebel attack in early February.

Fear of government reprisals, threats, the closure of a prominent radio station and amendments to the press law criminalizing critical coverage have prompted at least 14 independent Chadian journalists to flee into exile in recent weeks, according to CPJ research. Panapress.

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