Reporters Without Borders today called on Chad's High Council of Communication (HCC) to rescind the week-long suspension of a privately-owned radio station, DJA FM, which began on Monday, January 18th, and to withdraw its threat to close it down permanently if it is still unable to pay its annual dues at the end of the week.
The High Council for Communication (HCC), the body that regulates the news media, notified the community radio station DJA FM by letter that it could resume broadcasting on 28 January. Permission was granted after the station had paid all the annual fees it owed. --------------------- 18 January 2005 - Country's oldest privately-owned radio station faces closure Reporters Without Borders today called on Chad's High Council of Communication (HCC) to rescind the week-long suspension of a privately-owned radio station, DJA FM, which began yesterday, and to withdraw its threat to close it down permanently if it is still unable to pay its annual dues at the end of the week. "This is the first time the HCC has taken such as decision and its effect could be dramatic, as the HCC is well aware that the country's 13 privately-owned radio stations are operating in a very difficult economic context," the press freedom organisation said. "If DJA FM and other stations are forced to close, this will constitute a serious blow to free expression and news diversity in Chad," Reporters Without Borders warned, calling on the authorities to demonstrate their support for press freedom by allowing DJA FM to resume broadcasting. DJA FM, which is a non profit radio, could be allowed to pay the annual dues in installments, it suggested. Zara Yacoub, the station's president, learned of the suspension just three days before it was due to take effect. An HCC communique said: "Broadcasts by radio DJA FM are suspended for a period of eight days, from Monday 17 January to Monday 24 January inclusively, for failure to regularise its financial situation under the regulations for privately-owned radio stations." The communique added: "DJA FM will be subject to withdrawal of its operating authorisation if the refusal to regularise continues." The annual dues for a radio station is 500,000 CFA francs (764 euros). Zara Yacoub, who is also president of the Chad Union of Privately-Owned Radio Stations (URPT), told the HCC president in letters in November and it December 2004 that DJA FM was not refusing pay its dues and that its failure to do so was due "simply to a cruel lack of financial resources." She also said that, at a meeting with the HCC president, DJA FM had proposed paying the dues as soon as it received the government subsidy for privately-owned radio stations, and that this proposal was repeated in the first letter. Zara Yacoub added that the communique showed that "the HCC is bent on eliminating DJA FM for undeclared reasons." Set up in 1999, DJA FM was Chad's first privately-owned radio station. Until now, the HCC had never suspended any news media for non-payment of dues since it was formed in 1995.