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Chad Expels Cameroon Editor

Afrol News (10/17/09)
Chadian authorities have expelled the editor of the privately-owned weekly La Voix published in the capital N'Djamena.

Innocent Ebode has been expelled for allegedly staying in the country illegally.

Reporters Without Borders described the summary expulsion of the Cameroon national as shocking and unwarranted saying the step taken by the government could be one of many ahead as government tries to silence the paper.

"This may well be the first move in a bid to gag this newspaper since it seems likely La Voix could be made to pay for his alleged irregularity," RSF said in a statement.

RSF said Mr Ebode was taken by Chadian officials to the Cameroon side of the border city of Kousseri, after being summoned by state security officials in N'Djamena where after a two-hour interview in the presence of his two lawyers the journalist was told that he was staying illegally.

"And why should this happen now, when the weekly has been publishing since May this year? We urge the authorities to provide an immediate explanation," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

The latest spat with the government is reportedly as a result of the newspaper article carried out on the front page of the paper on 13 October headlined: "Purchase of weapons in France: Chad spends 8.5 billions CFA francs", based on official information released by the French defence ministry, revealing that Chad had become France's second biggest customer for military weapons.

RSF said three weeks earlier, La Voix published an article referring to the likely departure of the Prime Minister, Youssouf Saleh Abbas, and speculating about his possible successor. The presidency issued a statement accusing the newspaper of aiming to undermine the administration.

The organisation called on President Biya to use his influence to end practices that are undermining the free flow of information, further pleading with the government to bring defamation laws in line with international standards by eliminating criminal penalties.

Since Cameroon gained independence in 1961, it has struggled from one-party rule to a multi-party system in which the freedom of expression has been severely limited.

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