Chad | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Chad

Chad

Freedom of the Press 2008

2008 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

74

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

30

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

21

Chad’s constitution allows for freedom of expression, but authorities have routinely used threats and legal provisions criminalizing defamation and vaguely defined “incitement” to imprison journalists and censor critical reporting. In March, Adji Moussa, director of the bimonthly Le Mirroir, received a six-month suspended prison sentence, as well as a fine and damages of approximately US$1,050 for allegedly defaming a Catholic priest over corruption allegations. Critical coverage of President Idriss Deby was treated particularly harshly. In December, authorities arrested the prominent local journalist Nadjikimo Benoudjita, director of the private weekly Notre Temps, following an editorial that was critical of Deby and the French government. Benoudjita was charged with inciting ethnic and religious hatred and was detained for three days before leaving the country; the paper, however, remained closed at year’s end. In Chad’s conservative, ethnically polarized society, many subjects are considered off-limits to the press, including the armed rebellion on the border with Sudan and recurring tensions among tribal clans. The High Communication Council (HCC), the official media regulatory body, has the authority to suspend publications and broadcast outlets for defamation or excessive criticism of the government and the presidency.

The first five months of 2007 were dominated by a nationwide state of emergency, which subjected local newspapers to prior censorship—forcing many to stop publishing altogether—and barred local media coverage of the opposition and the ongoing conflict in the east. Once the state of emergency was lifted in May, a number of private newspapers were able to print again without censorship and several radio stations returned to the air. But this marginal amount of freedom was short-lived as the government imposed a second state of emergency in October on reporting in eastern Chad. This included a blanket prohibition on travel to or coverage of the region as well as restrictions on interviews with opposition leaders and criticism of the government, depriving Chadians of vital sources of information at a time of domestic conflict and instability.

During the year, journalists throughout Chad faced the threats of harassment and detention. On January 31, Marcel Ngargoto, a journalist with Radio Brakos, a critical station based in the southern town of Moissala, was detained without charge for two days; he was later accused of “ruthless handling of sensitive news which could harm national cohesion,” according to Reporters Sans Frontieres. In October, authorities detained three French journalists in eastern Chad who were traveling with Zoe’s Ark, the French nonprofit charged late in the year with involvement in child trafficking in response to the organization’s attempt to transport more than 100 purported Darfuri orphans to France for adoption. The journalists, who were not directly involved in the organization’s operations, were held for 10 days on charges of complicity in kidnapping, but were later released on bail and allowed to leave the country, after intervention from French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Following the incident, authorities in eastern Chad tightened already-strict travel restrictions on journalists and nongovernmental organization workers in the region, according to the France-based newspaper L’Humanite. While coverage of the conflict remains easier for foreign correspondents than for their local counterparts, government intimidation frequently results in self-censorship.

Private newspapers, some of which publish commentary that is critical of the government when they are not operating under the prepublication censorship requirements associated with the imposition of a state of emergency, circulate freely in N’Djamena, the capital, but they have little impact on the largely rural and illiterate population. The only television station, Teletchad, is state owned, and its coverage favors the government. Radio is the primary means of mass communication, and station licenses are granted by the HCC, which is considered to be greatly influenced by the government. Despite the high cost of these licenses for commercial radio stations, there are over a dozen private and community-run stations on the air, some operated by nonprofit groups, including human rights organizations and the Catholic Church. These broadcasters are subject to close official scrutiny, and those that fail to pay annual fees to the state are threatened with closure. There are no reports that the government restricts internet access, although according to the U.S. State Department, there are reports that the government occasionally monitors e-mail. The internet infrastructure remains government owned, and less than 1 percent of the population had access to this resource in 2007.