Chad - Disastrous plight of independent media under state of emergency deplored

    MONTREAL, Feb. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Chad is now one of the few African
countries without an effective independent press since a state of emergency
was declared a week ago, with journalists fleeing abroad to escape arrest or
falling silent in protest against censorship and "very serious" official
threats, Reporters Without Borders said today.
    "The authorities cannot force the country to live in an atmosphere of
constant praise for them and must understand they will continue to be
criticised, with or without an independent media," it said.
    Under the 15 February emergency, a censorship committee has been set up,
privately-owned papers have stopped coming out, some radio programmes have
been dropped by privately-owned stations and the communications ministry has
called the independent media mouthpieces of "foreign aggressors." The
crackdown has continued even though rebel forces have withdrawn from the
capital, N'Djamena.
    The emergency includes a curfew, controlled movement of people and
vehicles, house searches and control of the media, which must submit all
material for approval before printing or broadcasting.
    Privately-owned newspapers said on 18 February they were halting
publication for as long as the emergency lasted, in protest against "the
suspension of civil liberties" and censorship. The papers were the weeklies Le
Temps, L'Observateur and the twice-weekly N'Djamena Hebdo. Another
privately-owned paper, Notre Temps, was banned last December. The
privately-owned pro-government daily Le Progrès is now the only independent
paper still appearing.
    The president of the Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT),
Gapili Misset, called on member-stations to drop some programmes from today in
protest against the official pre-censorship. He urged the government to begin
"an open and sincere dialogue" with the privately-owned media and "stop
harassing" them.
    Communications minister and government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa
Doumngor told the state-owned radio station RNT on 20 February that the
independent media were "conniving with the rebels and conveying their
propaganda" in opposition to government efforts. The media "did not realise
the danger" to the country, he said, and the government could not allow
newspapers to "distract public opinion."
    Pre-censorship of the media was the "logical result of the latest
Sudanese aggression" and since the country was "at war" such measures were
"quite normal. He said "a responsible media would focus on the Sudanese
aggression against Chad, but it does not do that."

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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