Letters   |   Chad

Censorship draws deep concern

December 7, 2006

His Excellency Idriss Deby Itno
President of the Republic of Chad
B.P. 74 N'Djamena, Tchadc/o The Embassy of Chad to the United States
2002 R Street, NW
Washington DC 20009

Via facsimile: (202) 265-1937

Your Excellency,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply troubled by your government's censorship of private newspapers and radio stations under rules imposed amid ethnic clashes in November.

On November 13, the government instituted a 12-day state of emergency in six regions of Chad including the eastern regions of Ouaddai, Wadi Fira and Salamat, scenes of the violence, and the capital, N'Djamena. The state of emergency included a ban on newspaper and radio coverage of issues and events "likely to threaten public order, national unity, territorial integrity, and respect for the republican institutions," according to an official statement cited by Agence France-Presse. The state of emergency was extended on November 23 for a further six months with little parliamentary debate, according to local and international media. The censorship regulations require radio stations to submit their recorded material to government censors, and they impose unspecified fines on live broadcasting that strays from approved content, according to international news reports.

Local journalists have protested this sweeping censorship, which violates democratic principles and deprives citizens of vital information. In protest, six private newspapers began a two-week hiatus on Wednesday and several radio stations began a three-day news blackout at the same time, according to international news reports. Several newspapers had already stopped publishing for a week in November in protest, local journalists told CPJ. Censorship is no longer limited to coverage of the ethnic violence. "We can't discuss Darfur or the conflict between rebels and government forces, or even some political topics," one newspaper editor told Reuters. "We are not even allowed to say that we are censored." |

In its official statement, the government stated that the measures were in response to "the media that contributed to the destabilization of Chad through misinformation, the celebration of armed rebellion, and connivance with the enemy." Such statements scapegoat the entire private press for the violence and serve as a pretext to suppress all types of critical reporting. Intolerance for such journalism was reflected in the October arrest of Notre Temps reporter Evariste Ngaralbaye, who was imprisoned for four days over an article that accused the government of using child soldiers in the east, according to CPJ research.

Blanket restrictions on the private media deny the public of its fundamental right to information and undermine basic democratic principles enshrined in international law and declarations, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. We call on Your Excellency to ensure that the censorship measures are lifted immediately.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.


Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

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