The summons followed a complaint filed by the former head of the Chadian political police, Mahamat Ismaël Chaïbo, for “threats to commit a crime or an offence” after the journalist went to his home in Paris to ask him questions. The journalist denied making any threat during the interview with Chaïbo, which took place last week on the doorstep of his apartment and was recorded. During the interview, Chaïbo responded to a few questions and eventually called his lawyer, saying a journalist was asking “dumb questions” and requested him to “prepare a complaint”.
Dietrich was released after three hours in custody, during which the police asked him questions for two hours regarding Chaibo’s allegations of threats. No charges have been filed against the journalist but the complaint has not been dismissed. Dietrich says he believes the action was designed to pressure him to stop his investigation and find his sources.
Dietrich is an experienced journalist who has been investigating Franco-African relations and crimes committed by authoritarian regimes close to French governments for several years.
“We can only be astonished at the speed of these intimidation maneuvers by the French police against our journalist, even though the authorities have twice allowed Mr. Chaïbo to return to Chad, despite his summons and the publication of our investigation,” said Le Média in a press release.
The French journalists’ union SNJ-CGT denounced the move as a clear attack on the right to information: “This obvious desire to put pressure on a journalist who is well known to the Chadian services and the government in power is intolerable. The SNJ-CGT is doing everything in its power to ensure the safety of a journalist who is in the sights of the Chadian regime and some Franco-African networks, so that he can continue his investigations,” said deputy secretary for International affairs Pablo Aiquel.
IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said: "We cannot accept that the authorities harass and judicially pressure a journalist to stop him from doing his job. We stand in solidarity with Thomas and urge this groundless case to be closed."
EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez added: “This case is serious as it is an attempt to intimidate a journalist and interfere with his investigative work. Thomas Dietrich was only doing his job as a journalist, asking questions and confronting the facts. His case must be closed immediately.”