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Chad : growing crackdown on independent journalists


Aug 26, 2005 (Ndjamena) — Private newspapers in Chad are staging a news blackout this week to draw international attention to what they call a growing crackdown on the independent press and the "creeping dictatorship" of President Idriss Deby, following the jailing of four reporters in the past two months.

Since 22 August 2005, eight private newspapers have stopped publishing and several private radio stations have cut news transmissions to protest the jailing of Ngaradoumbe Samory, Garonde Djarma, Sy Koumbo Singa Gali and Michael Didama. The journalists were sentenced for inciting hatred and defaming the president because of articles that criticised Deby and shed light on conflicts in eastern Chad.

The jailings have prompted Journaliste en danger (JED), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontieres, RSF) to demand the journalists’ immediate release and express concerns about press freedom in the country.

Samory, the editor of the private weekly newspaper "L’Observateur", was sentenced on 18 July to three months in jail and fined 100,000 CFA francs (US$180) for publishing an open letter to the president that criticised the government’s treatment of the Kreda ethnic minority group. Samory was asked to reveal the author’s identity but he refused to do so.

Djarma was sentenced to four years in jail for writing an article in "L’Observateur" that criticised a July constitutional amendment which allows Deby to seek a third term. Djarma was also fined 1.2 million CFA francs (US$2,140).

On 15 August, Gali, the publication director of "L’Observateur", was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 200,000 CFA francs (US$380) for publishing an interview with Djarma in which he accused Arab "janjaweed" members of the Chadian government

of conspiring to silence him because of his coverage of the conflict between Arabs and black Africans in the neighboring Darfur province of Sudan.

Meanwhile, Didama, the publication director of the private weekly "Le Temps", is on trial for publishing reports in May about an alleged massacre of civilians in eastern Chad and alleged anti-government rebel activities in the same region.

Journalists in Chad say the Deby government has become increasingly repressive towards the private media, which has been largely critical of the president’s third-term ambitions.

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