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National media regulator suspends twelve newspapers, threatens three others with sanctions

Expression

Twelve newspapers suspended for three months, three threatened with sanctions

On 7th September 2020, Chad's national media regulator, la haute autorité des médias audiovisuels du Tchad (HAMA), suspended 12 newspapers - about a quarter of the country's newspaper titles according to Reporters without Borders (RSF) - for a period of three months on grounds of 'non-compliance with the law'. HAMA referred to a provision in the 2018 Press Law that mandates publishers and managing editors of publications to have academic qualifications in journalism (at least Bac+3). The newspapers that were affected are: Le Haut Parleur, Le Baromètre, La Suggestion, Lalakoum, Le Potentiel, Tchad Al yam, Alnada, Chaba Tchad, Al Khabar, Al Ayam, Al Haya and Atihad. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), HAMA sent out letters to three additional media outlets - N’Djamena Hebdo,  La Voix and L'Éclairage - in early October 2020, threatening them with sanctions if they do not comply with the same provision under the 2018 Press Law. 

The suspension of the newspapers was met with indignation, including by the  mouvement citoyen pour la préservation des libertés (MPCL; citizen movement for the preservation of freedoms) who reportedly addressed a letter to HAMA promising protest action if the suspension is not lifted. 

Arnaud Froger of RSF commented

 "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.”

HRD prosecuted

After 211 days of 'secret' detention, HRD Baradine Berdei Targuio, finally appeared before an investigative judge on 21st August 2020. He was charged a few days later, on 24th August 2020, with breach of national security, illegal possession of weapons, assault and battery. As reported previously on the Monitor, president of the human rights organisation Organisation Tchadienne des Droits Humains (OTDH; Chadian Organisation of Human Rights) Baradine Berdei Targuio was arrested at his home in N'Djamena on 24th January 2020. Two days before his arrest, on 22nd January 2020, Berdei published a Facebook post alleging that the Chadian president Idriss Déby Itno 'might be seriously ill and hospitalised in France'.