The political and security situation in Chad remains very unstable and poses significant risks for journalists. President Idriss Déby’s death in April 2021 did not open up any immediate prospects of democratisation.
After Chad began democratising in December 1990, the media landscape expanded and the media acquired a certain independence, with the state media ceasing to have a monopoly on news reporting. Ten newspapers (including L'Observateur, La Voix and Le Pays) appear regularly, four privately owned TV channels operate in N'Djamena, the capital, and around 60 radio stations operate nationwide.
The communication ministry controls the state media and the government appoints their editors. It also chooses most of the media regulator’s members. Media outlets can have their own editorial line, but investigative reporting that is critical of senior government officials and their close associates is not tolerated. Any media outlet publishing a report of this kind is liable to be suspended and the journalist responsible arrested arbitrarily, while foreign reporters can be expelled.
Press freedom and the right to information are enshrined in Chad’s laws but defamation is punishable by up to three months in prison. More than a dozen newspapers were suspended in 2020 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.
Conditions are precarious for the media, especially for privately owned outlets. Newspapers are very costly to print and the advertising market is limited, resulting in some newspapers operating at a loss. Although the state is supposed to provide an annual subsidy, newspapers have received nothing for the past few years, except on the eve of the April 2021 presidential election.
Chad has been in transition since 20 April 2021 with the death of President Idriss Déby, who had ruled with an iron fist for 30 years. Since then, journalists and the media have been invited to avoid disseminating hateful speech and to favour speech calling for peace – a sort of censorship in and of itself.
The presence in Chad of armed groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State poses a threat to journalists, as evidenced by the killing, by a road mine, of a national TV cameraman travelling with an army convoy in 2019. A community radio reporter was shot dead in intercommunal violence in southern Chad in February 2022. Journalists are exposed to police violence while covering protests and are constrained online. Access to social media was blocked for 470 days in a row in 2018 and 2019, which established Chad as one of Africa’s worst cyber-censors in recent years.