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Freedom of the Press 2011 - Central African Republic

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 September 2011
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2011 - Central African Republic, 1 September 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e5f71b4c.html [accessed 25 July 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.

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 19
Political Environment: 23
Economic Environment: 19
Total Score: 61

Central African Republic's 2005 constitution provides for freedom of the press, though authorities have continued to use intimidation, suspension of outlets, and legal harassment to limit reporting, particularly on sensitive topics such as official corruption and rebel activity. A 2004 press law that went into effect in 2005 abolished imprisonment for many press offenses, such as libel and slander, but criminal penalties remain for some defamation charges, incitement of ethnic or religious hatred, and the publication or broadcast of false information that could "disturb the peace." According to IREX, a February 2009 court order sought to decriminalize a number of these press offenses. There were no reported cases of journalists being arrested or imprisoned in 2009 or 2010, an improvement over 2008, when multiple journalists were sentenced to prison for convictions ranging from defamation to obstruction of justice. However, in September 2010, journalist Alexi Remangai was detained for three days following a defamation complaint by a government official. The case was pending at year's end. Reporters, particularly from privately owned outlets, continue to face difficulties in accessing government information or covering official events.

Journalists continue to face harassment and threats from the authorities, and some, particularly those who work in state-owned media outlets, practice self-censorship to avoid reprisals. Complaints filed against authorities in regard to any transgressions are often ignored. Most journalists are not paid regularly for their work and are poorly trained, although a journalism department was established at the University of Bangui in 2009. Journalists cannot always operate safely outside the capital due to increased activity by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group. The LRA, which does not have popular support, is primarily active in the southeast, near the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Several private newspapers offer competing views, including five dailies published in French. Many of them provided a certain amount of diverse political coverage in preparation for presidential and parliamentary elections, which were originally scheduled for 2010 but were postponed until January 2011. However, even those papers that provide political coverage have limited influence due to low literacy levels, high poverty rates, and the lack of a functioning postal service to deliver newspapers outside the capital. Financial problems due to the lack of an advertising market and a lack of sustainability plague many newspapers, and due to poverty, some journalists accept bribes to cover certain stories. Radio continues to be the most important medium for the dissemination of information. The state owns Radio Centrafrique, as well as the only television broadcasting station, and both outlets reflect predominantly progovernment views. Due to technical deterioration, the reach and broadcast capacity of even state-owned outlets has shrunk dramatically. While the government monopolizes domestic television, there were privately owned alternatives to Radio Centrafrique, including Radio Ndeke Luka (funded by the United Nations), international broadcasters such as Radio France Internationale, and a number of community radio stations. Internet access is unrestricted, and there are no reports that the government monitors e-mail. However, only 2.3 percent of the population was able to access this medium in 2010.

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