Chad - Adoption of new press law by decree called "unacceptable imposition"

    MONTREAL, Feb. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders condemns the
Chadian government's adoption of a new press law by decree on 20 February.
Instead of abolishing prison sentences for press offences, it makes them much
longer, and it makes it harder to launch a newspaper.
    "The government promised several times that the press law would be
liberalised," the press freedom organisation said. "Last September, the Union
of Chadian Journalists and other media organisations recommended
decriminalizing press offences. But now this new law has gone in the opposite
direction, toughening all the existing provisions and increasing the penalties
for press offences."
    Reporters Without Borders added : "The authorities took no account of the
many proposals that were submitted to them. Instead, in a cowardly fashion,
they took advantage of the state of emergency to adopt this new law by decree,
thereby avoiding any debate. This is an unacceptable imposition that could
finish off a press that is already close to death."
    Under the new law, the maximum penalty for publishing false news and
defamation (articles 41 and 47) is increased to three years in prison, while
the maximum penalty for "insulting the president" (article 48) is increased to
five years.
    Under article 15 of the old law, anyone wanting to launch a newspaper
just had to file a declaration with the ministry of commence. Now they have to
appear before the prosecutor's office and the High Council of Communication.
Previously, anyone publishing a newspaper just had to have a university
degree. Now, under article 17, both the publisher and editor have to have
graduated from a school of journalism.
    Meanwhile, two communiques issued on 18 and 21 February by the High
Council of Communication and the government have banned the media from
reporting "the activities of the armed opposition in any form" and "any
information jeopardising national cohesion and inciting unrest."

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)

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