Violence, arbitrary arrest and cyber-censorship
It is tough being a journalist in Chad and the harassment intensified in 2020 ahead of the presidential election scheduled for October 2021. More than a dozen newspapers were suspended under a new press law imposing minimum academic requirements for the position of newspaper editor. Its apparent aim was to professionalise the media but it could result in the elimination of many independent publications. Reporters are often arrested because of what they write. Most are usually released fairly quickly but some have been held arbitrarily for weeks or even months, and some have been mistreated while detained. In 2019, a newspaper editor initially charged with defaming a former government minister was sentenced to three years in prison for “association for the purpose of computer crime,” a charge invented by the prosecution with the sole aim of keeping him in prison, where he was physically attacked and held in appalling conditions. He was finally released ten months later. Coverage of impunity or criticism of President Idriss Deby Itno and those close to him is not tolerated and can lead to expulsion (for foreign journalists), to abduction and arbitrary detention (for Chadian journalists) and to the closure of media outlets – the fate suffered by a weekly newspaper in 2018. Journalists are exposed to the threat of terrorism, as was seen in 2019 when a national TV cameraman travelling with an army convoy was killed by a road mine. Journalists have also been subjected to violence by the security forces while covering anti-government protests. In 2020, the police fired teargas into a radio station’s courtyard and arrested 30 journalists who were either working or receiving training there. In protest, radio stations staged a “Day without Radio” strike, similar to the “Day without Press” strike that the print media called in 2018, showing that local journalists’ organisations do not remain silent in the face of persecution. Journalists and bloggers are also gagged online. The authorities blocked access to social media in March 2018 and did not restore it until July 2019, after a total of 470 days. This established Chad as one of Africa’s worst cyber-censors in recent years.
123 in 2020
39.70 in 2020