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Chad19 May 2006

Journalist Tchanguiz Vatankhah has been released

The director of community radio station Radio Brakoss and president of the Chad Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT), Tchanguiz Vatankhah, was released in the afternoon of 19 May 2006, he told Reporters Without Borders on the telephone from his home in N’Djamena.

19.05.2006 - Detained radio journalist calls off hunger strike

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief today on learning that detained journalist Tchanguiz Vatankhah, the director of Radio Brakoss and president of the Chad Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT), called off his hunger strike on 17 May after being told he would henceforth be allowed visits.

Reached by Reporters Without Borders at N’Djamena police headquarters where he is being held, Vatankhah said he received a visit on 16 May from the human rights minister Abderaman Djasnabaille, public security and immigration minister Routouang Yoma Golom (who ordered his arrest) and a senior police officer. He said they discussed their differences with him and promised he would be released “in the coming days.”

15.05.2006 - Concern about detained radio journalist on hunger strike for more than two weeks

Reporters Without Borders today issued an urgent appeal for the release of Tchanguiz Vatankhah, the director of Radio Brakoss and president of the Chad Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT), whose state of health has deteriorated markedly, according to a human rights activist who has seen him in detention.

Held at police headquarters in N’Djamena since his arrest on 28 April, Vatankhah has been on hunger strike since the start of May to demand the right to see his lawyer. He is also refusing to take any medicine for his diabetes.

According to Deuzombé Daniel Passalet of the Chad-based organisation Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF), who was able to see him briefly yesterday afternoon, Vatankhah fell in the shower because he is so weak, and injured his back. He was examined by a doctor who recommended treatment and an X-ray. “We are very worried,” Passelet said. “He is in a very poor shape and cannot walk.”

Since his arrest, Vatankhah has signed a statement undertaking not to meddle any more in Chadian politics and to resign as head of the URPT. He also says in the statement that he has not been mistreated.

11.05.2006 - Detained radio journalist refuses to eat until he is allowed to see his lawyer

Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate release of detained radio journalist Tchanguiz Vatankhah, the president of the Chad Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT), who has been on hunger strike since early May to demand access to his lawyer, according to a local human rights group.

An Iranian political refugee who has lived in Chad for several decades, Vatankhah is the editor of Radio Brakoss, a community radio station based in the southern town of Moïssala. He was arrested there on 28 April and then transferred to police headquarters in N’Djamena.

“It is unacceptable to deprive someone of his rights while in detention, regardless of the charges,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Furthermore, his arrest seems more and more absurd and the bad publicity is hurting the government much more than anything he may have said. The public security and immigration minister should heed our call for the release of Vatankhah, who has been reduced to endangering his own life just to demand his most basic rights.”

Deuzombé Daniel Passalet, the president of the Chad-based organisation Human Rights Without Borders (DHSF), told Reporters Without Borders today that Vatankhah has resolved not to eat anything until he is allowed to see his lawyer.

“When he is given some water, he drinks just a few drops and splashes himself with the rest,” Passalet said. The head of the Chadian intelligence department reportedly ordered the purchase of medicine to treat Vatankhah’s diabetes, but he also refusing to take the medicine unless his lawyer is present, Passalet added.

Reporters Without Borders has been told he was arrested on the orders of public security and immigration minister Routouang Yoma Golom after issuing a statement on the behalf for the URPT calling for the postponement of the 3 May presidential election.

According to several local sources, Vatankhah promised in a letter to the government late last year that he would refrain from any involvement in Chadian politics, which the authorities view as a violation of his refugee status. He issued this undertaking after being arrested and threatened with expulsion in September, when Golom accused his station of “stirring up resentment between the different rural communities in conflict.”

The human rights minister, Abderaman Djasnabaille, told Reporters Without Borders he was doing everything possible to get Vatankhah freed. While regretting that Vatankhah had broken his promise, he said he was in contact with Golom to “find a solution.”

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Chad - Annual report 2006

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