Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April 2014, 11:13 GMT

World Report - Central African Republic

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date October 2012
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Central African Republic, October 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea561b32.html [accessed 23 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Area: 622,980 sq km
  • Population: 4.95 million (July 2011)
  • Language: French, Sango
  • Head of state: François Bozizé, since 2003 (took power in a coup, then elected in 2005 and 2011)

The Central African Republic's media are like the country's provinces, abundant but precarious, because they lack resources and are badly run. Provincial and religious radio stations censor themselves to avoid angering local despots.

Dogged by military coups and rebellions, the Central African Republic continues to be a weak state that has porous borders with several countries in crisis. President François Bozizé, who seized power by force in 2003 and won elections in 2005 and 2011, has tried to stabilize the country, which has been buffeted by economic, institutional, military, humanitarian and social problems.

The past decade under Bozizé has seen significant changes. In 2005, a media freedom law was promulgated, media offences were decriminalized and the High Council for Communication was created. Intimidation and arrests of journalists have declined considerably since 2003, while relations between the government and media, which were terrible from 1993 to 2003, have improved. But journalists still suffer at the hands of an obsolete judicial system. Old political hatred dies hard and journalists are often the targets of "irritable" elements within the army.

Consisting largely of low-circulation newspapers and often isolated radio stations, the media continue to be fragile. There are many privately-owned print media that denounce cases of corruption and cover the military revolts and the weariness of unpaid state employees, but their impact is limited because of their price and the high illiteracy rate.

Their ancient infrastructure and the irregularity with which they appear raise questions about their future. There is no real provision for training journalists aside from a new course at Bangui University, which is not adapted to local needs. Journalism continues to be a second job, one learned by trial and error. In the search for funding, many publications adopt partisan editorial practices, to the point that some become the tools of business or political interests.

Radio is the most popular medium but it barely covers the entire country. Aside from state-owned Radio Centrafrique and TVCA, the broadcast media consist entirely of radio stations that just broadcast in the Bangui area, and religious and provincial stations based in about a third of the interior, which are subject to the whims of local despots.

Relations between the media and local authorities are extremely tense and radio stations have to censor themselves. Ndéké Luka, a privately-owned radio station that is funded by the Swiss foundation Hirondelle and supported by the UN, provides quality reporting. The state's aging infrastructure results in frequent power cuts and acts as major brake on Internet development.

Ferdinand Samba, the editor of the daily Le Démocrate, was sentenced in January 2012 to 10 months in prison for libelling President Bozizé's nephew, finance and budget minister Sylvain Ndoutingaï. He spent three months in prison before finally being pardoned by the president on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day, which his colleagues had decided to boycott in protest against his arrest. The print media had previously staged a one-day "no newspaper" protest in response to his arrest.

Four newspapers -- Le Confident, Le Citoyen, Le Démocrate and L'Hirondelle -- staged a similar one-day suspension of publication in July 2011 in solidarity with the editors of two weeklies, Faustin Bambou of Les Collines de l'Oubangui and Emmanuel Cyrus Sandy of Média Plus, who had been arrested on charges of inciting hatred and violence for reporting that defence minister Jean-Francis Bozizé, the president's son, had misused European Union funds earmarked for retired soldiers.

Updated in October 2012

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