Re-criminalisation of press offences considered
⚡️ #RCA 🇨🇫 : RSF dénonce un projet de loi inquiétant prévoyant de pénaliser les délits de presse, dans un contexte d'attaques récurrentes contre les journalistes. Les autorités doivent abandonner ce projet et garantir la liberté de la presse 👉 https://t.co/YY1odyzeDD— RSF (@RSF_inter) October 24, 2022
Revision of communication freedom law considered, criminalising press offences
According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), Minister of Justice Djoubaye Abazene announced a revision of the 2020 Law on Freedom of Communication during a meeting with his staff on 17th October 2022, to which journalists were invited. The revision would reverse the decriminalisation of press offences in the 2020 Law and place the national media regulator, the High Council for Communication, under control of the Ministry of Communication. Sadibou Marong commented on the development:
“Instead of protecting journalists against attacks, threats and arbitrary arrest, the authorities are taking steps to crack down harder on the media. If this law passes, it will give the authorities a free hand to reinforce censorship and control information. In a country where violence is still rampant in several regions, the authorities should promote the media so that they can play their role fully, not restore prison sentences for press offences. We urge them to abandon this bill and to do everything possible to protect journalists.”
The revisions are reportedly being examined by the general secretariat of CAR’s government. They will need to be approved by the cabinet before being tabled at the National Assembly.
On 6th September 2022, gendarmes arrested Christian Azoudaoua, editor of the newspaper Le Charpentier - according to RSF, on orders of the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, Evariste Ngamana - after the newspaper published a report involving Ngamana in alleged embezzlement within the National Assembly. The journalist was released at the end of September 2022.
CAR journalist Erick Ngaba threatened over report on opposition leader— CPJ Africa (@CPJAfrica) July 29, 2022
Central African Republic authorities should investigate threatening messages sent to journalist Erick Ngaba and ensure his safety - @pressfreedom https://t.co/KPbiyl5pbQ
Journalists threatened, attacked
Journalist and editor for the newspaper Ndjoni Sango, Erick Ngaba, received about 20 threatening messages in WhatsApp groups and via Facebook Live broadcasts in June and July 2022 following a publication by Ngaba on an alleged internal power struggle in the opposition party Movement for the Liberation of the Central African People (MLPC). Threats included “taking care” of the journalist and accusations that Ngaba is a “traitor” and a “friend of the occupier”. Senders of those threatening messages included party officials such as MLPC spokesperson Kenny Yamba, who sent a message that he would “personally take care” of the journalist. Ngaba told the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ):
‘’They are doing it openly. They are not using avatars but their own accounts and the [MLPC] party’s communication channels”.
According to RSF, freelance journalist Fiacre Salabré was threatened, particularly when he criticised the proposed amendments to the Constitution and plans to put the national media regulator under the control of the Ministry of Communication (see above). On 4th September 2022, the journalist was physically attacked by protesters while he was covering a gathering of the pro-government group Front Républicain. Salabré was again physically attacked on 8th October 2022 by two youths who recognised him on the streets.
Editor of the daily Le Quotidien de Bangui, Landry Ulrich Nguéma Ngokpélé, fled his home and went into hiding in September 2022 following threats. According to RSF, the journalist fears reprisals from government officials following his publications on a senior army officer and the proposed changes to the Constitution.
Radio station intimidated by Ministry of Communication
Radio station Ndeke Luka was said to have been intimidated by the Ministry of Communication and Media in September 2022. Following the broadcast of some of their investigative reports exposing government shortcomings, the Minister of Communication reportedly told the radio station that the government would review its partnership with Ndeke Luka and the amount of taxes it needs to pay.
Centrafrique : le gouvernement interdit de diffusion le film «Nous, étudiants !» https://t.co/JHKjnjGvaD pic.twitter.com/8gMMNHKdxL— RFI Afrique (@RFIAfrique) May 11, 2022
Feature film banned
The feature film “Nous, étudiants!” (We, Students!) by Rafiki Fariala was banned from being broadcast in the CAR until further notice. The film, which depicts the realities that students face, including corruption and sexual harassment, on the Bangui university campus, was banned a few days after its screening at the Alliance Française in Bangui on 30th April 2022, attended by government and diplomatic officials. According to RFI, CAR’s Minister of Arts and Culture, Jennifer Saraiva-Yanzeré, walked out and summoned Fariala and other directors of feature films a few days later. In a statement to radio station Ndeke Luka, the Minister of Arts and Culture said: "We met these young people trained by the Alliance Française and who produced this film. We want to know what the objectives are and why this film was made. We want to know why we were not consulted to analyse the content with the assistance of our technicians. We saw very compromising images which do not reflect the realities of the country". In the statement, the Minister said the government would review the partnership with Alliance Française.
Officially the film is banned from being broadcast in the CAR for “incitement of hatred”. Fariala reportedly received threats following the government decision to ban the film in the CAR.
Amendments to the Constitution: protests
Government plans to amend the Constitution gave rise to several protests as the opposition fears that it will allow President Faustin Archange Touadéra to run for a third term in office, beyond the two-term limit in the current 2016 Constitution.
According to news reports, a meeting of the opposition party Mouvement démocratique pour la revolution de Centrafrique (MDREC), planned for 5th November 2022 to denounce the proposed amendments to the Constitution, was banned from taking place by local authorities. The latter invoked security reasons to justify the ban. Another protest against changes to the Constitution, planned for 3rd December 2022 in Bangui by the Bloc Républicain pour la Défence de la Constitution (Republican Block for the Defence of the Constitution), a coalition of opposition parties and civil society organisations, was banned by authorities, who reportedly said, in correspondence to the organisers, that the place of the meeting, the roundabout PK0 in the city centre “is not a place of meeting”.
A previous protest, organised on 27th August 2022 by the Bloc Républicain pour la Défense de la Constitution was authorised by the Minister of Security, although authorities reportedly refused to provide security for the meeting. That day, hundreds of people gathered in Bangui to protest.
Several protests supporting the modification of the Constitution took place in Bangui and other localities in the CAR, with no obstacles reported.
On 8th September 2022, hundreds of people gathered in front of the Constitutional Court in Bangui, at the call of the platform Galaxie nationale, close to the ruling power, demanding the dismissal of the president and other judges of the Constitutional Court, who were to render a decision on the constitutionality of a government decree forming a committee in charge of drafting the new Constitution. Those gathered were reportedly quickly dispersed by police officers. Following the decision by the Constitutional Court invalidating the said government decree, on 22nd September 2022, hundreds gathered briefly at the Constitutional Court. The following day, on 23rd September 2022, gendarmes, police officers and soldiers of the UN peacekeeping force MINUSCA, were deployed in the Court’s precinct, allowing only journalists and lawyers to enter the premises.
Communiqué de presse OCHA : Une recrudescence d’attaques contre les humanitaires menace l’assistance aux populations vulnérables pic.twitter.com/8aLRhLSUXw— OCHA CAR (@OCHA_CAR) June 1, 2022
UN: resurgence of attacks against humanitarian workers
On 1st June 2022, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) expressed its concern about a recent resurgence of attacks against humanitarian workers in CAR. At least 69 security incidents involving humanitarians occurred between January and May 2022. In May 2022, two humanitarian organisations – Intersos and Doctors of the World – suspended their activities in northeastern CAR following attacks, affecting the organisations’ beneficiaries. On 28th May 2022, a staff member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was shot and killed by CAR armed forces in Moyenne-Sido, near the border with Chad.
Civic Space Developments
CountryCentral African Republic