CIVICUS

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Chad

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Last updated on 13.06.2018 at 09:31

Chad-Overview

While civil liberties are formally guaranteed in Chad’s laws, in practice the authorities do not respect these rights and security forces regularly use disproportionate force against activists.

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Access to social media restricted for the second time in 2018

Access to social media restricted for the second time in 2018

Access to certain sites and social media and message applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger was, for the second time this year, restricted since 28th March. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), the fresh restrictions happened in the aftermath of a forum on the change of the country's political and administrative institutions, which was boycotted by the opposition.

Expression

Access to certain sites, social media and messaging applications such as Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger was, for the second time this year, restricted as of 28th March. The reasons behind this second-round of restrictions are unclear. According to media reports, they occurred 24 hours after the conclusion of a forum dealing with changes to the country's political and administrative institutions, which was boycotted by the opposition and civil society. The restrictions on accessing certain sites and communication platforms also happened at a time of heightened tension within the Zaghawa ethnic group  of President Idriss Deby. Nadjo Kaina, spokesperson for the citizen movement Iyina, informed Deutsche Welte that:

"The government sees debates on social networks that are not in their favor. This is a way to prevent youth from expressing themselves freely. This reminds us of the 2016 presidential election where we lived several months without the internet. It is regrettable".

In regards to the restrictions, Arnaud Froger, head of the Africa desk for Reporters Without Borders, stated that:

"Whenever there is political or social tension in Chad, the Internet is disrupted or it is disconnected altogether. Chad is emerging as one of sub-Saharan Africa’s worst online censors. The Chadian authorities must restore full access to the Internet”.

At the time of writing, the current level of restrictions on access to these sites and applications could not be determined. 

Peaceful Assembly

On 28th May, magistrates started a three-day strike in response to an incident when security officers shot at the vehicle of a lawyer in Doba, in the south of the country, while he was transporting three of his clients who had been acquitted. On that same day, a renewed general unlimited strike hit the public sector, with labour unions demanding payment of full salaries for public servants in accordance with the agreement signed by the authorities on 14th March, which has yet to be implemented and honoured. 

Security forces prevented a protest against revisions to the constitution, which had been adopted by the government on 30th April. A heavy security presence kept any groups from being able to assemble and carry out the protest. 

Association

Three opposition members, including two from CAP-SUR, were released on 19th May after months in secret detention. National Security Agency officers allegedly took the three opposition members during the night of 17th March at the police station in Doba, where they were filing a complaint against unknown persons regarding the circulation of a leaflet, allegedly done in their name. The leaflet reportedly called on residents in Doba to incite violence and revolt against the authorities. 

In April 2018, seven civil society organisations wrote an open letter to Parliament calling on elected representatives to reject the draft constitution, especially given that the mandate of this Parliament had expired three years ago. The draft was adopted on 30th April and the new constitution establishes a presidential system and reinforces the powers of the president. The vote was boycotted by the majority of opposition members who, along with civil society groups and the Catholic Church, called for a referendum on the constitutional changes, as opposed to a vote in Parliament. 

Association in Chad

People’s right to associate freely is guaranteed in the 1996 constitution and in an ordinance from 1962. In practice, associations must obtain a registration statement from the Ministry of Interior and Public Safety.

People’s right to associate freely is guaranteed in the 1996 constitution and in an ordinance from 1962. In practice, associations must obtain a registration statement from the Ministry of Interior and Public Safety. The authorities can reject any application if they deem the association is likely to undermine public order. These rules are typically used to target the most vocal or critical CSOs. More recently, tight state control of the formal civil society sector has been used to target new citizen movements in Chad. These movements, like ‘Enough is Enough’ and ‘Iyina’, organised large-scale protests in opposition to the government in the lead up to elections in April 2016. Four leaders of social movements were arrested in late March as they sought to organise the latest round of mass protests against the president seeking a fifth term.For humanitarian CSOs operating in rural parts of the country, the risk of attack from violent non-state groups further damages the freedom of association in Chad.


Peaceful Assembly in Chad

Chadians regularly exercise their right to protest, as seen during demonstrations in recent months organised by unemployed youth, impoverished communities and democracy activists.

Chadians regularly exercise their right to protest, as seen during demonstrations in recent months organised by unemployed youth, impoverished communities and democracy activists. In reality, it is rare for the authorities to allow a peaceful anti-government demonstration to take place. In the run up to elections in 2016 the government blocked attempted protests by civil society. Most protests are systematically prohibited or repressed, as was the case during the student demonstrations in February 2016, which resulted in at least one death and numerous injuries following the disproportionate use of force by security forces. A short video from March 2015 captured men in uniform whipping protestors that had been rounded up after a demonstration. To avoid the dangers of large numbers of people gathering in public, Chadian civil society also employs alternative means of using public space to express opinions, including mass boycotts or stay aways.


Expression in Chad

Despite the provisions of the constitution and of the law, freedom of expression is regularly violated in Chad.

Despite the provisions of the constitution and of the law, freedom of expression is regularly violated in Chad. Laws, including criminal defamation, are used to limit free expression and silence journalists, for example those seeking to expose corruption at the highest levels of public life in Chad. Local and foreign journalists alike are frequently harassed, threatened, arrested and given long prison sentences. The few private media that do exist face bureaucratic constraints and self-censorship is common. There is no access to government information, and the authorities closely monitor Internet and social media use. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), only 2.5% of the population had Internet access by the end of 2014. Chad is ranked 135th on the Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index.


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