The enforcement of 2018 media regulations could lead to the closure of significant print publications and result in massive job losses at private media outlets in Chad.
This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 7 October 2020.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Chad’s media regulator to rescind the sanctions it is threatening to enforce against several media publishers and editors, who will either have to be replaced or else see their publications closed down because, under a new law, they lack the necessary academic qualification to hold these positions. Enforcing these sanctions would eliminate many newspapers and would deal a very serious blow to the freedom to inform in Chad less than a year before its next presidential election.
The threatened publications include N’Djamena Hebdo, which brought out its first issue 31 years ago, when Hissène Habré was Chad’s dictator, and which may have to stop publishing within weeks. Like more than a dozen other independent publications in Chad, it could be forced to close by the end of the year. The High Authority for Media and Broadcasting (HAMA) has just sent letters to at least three media outlets asking them to comply with a provision in the 2018 press law under which publishers and managing editors must, at the very least, have a postgraduate degree in journalism.
N’Djamena Hebdo publisher Djendoroum Mbaininga told RSF the aim is to “persecute newspapers that provide serious reporting and annoy the authorities.” Mbaininga, who trained as a teacher, joined this biweekly in 1992 after a competitive recruitment process in which he came fourth out of more than 400 candidates. Ironically, he was named editor by his predecessor, Dieudonné Djonabaye, in 2005, when Djonabaye left to become the HAMA’s president.
The weeklies La Voix and L’Éclairage are the other two publications that are known to have just received similar letters. The HAMA already closed 12 publications – a quarter of Chad’s privately-owned print media outlets – at the start of September on the same grounds.
“No qualification or degree criteria can be used to restrict access to journalism or to the management of a media outlet,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The desire to professionalize the media cannot be realized by sidelining journalists who have in some cases been working for decades, or by closing historic titles.”
“We urge the media regulator to rescind this decision and we urge the authorities to amend the media law so as to abolish these restrictions on access to the position of media editor or publisher. With just months to go to the presidential election, the disappearance of around 15 publications would deal a major blow to media pluralism in Chad and would be seen as driven by a desire to silence critical and independent journalists.”
The presidential election is due to be held on 11 April 2021. Chad’s president since 1990, Idriss Déby, has not yet announced whether he will seek a sixth consecutive term.
Chad is ranked 123rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.