Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 23
Political Influences: 29
Economic Pressures: 21
Total Score: 73
Life Expectancy: 47
Religious Groups: Muslim (51 percent), Christian (35 percent), animist (7 percent), other (7 percent)
Ethnic Groups: 200 distinct groups, including Arabs, Gorane, Sara, and Moundang
The constitution allows for freedom of expression, but the government has routinely restricted this right in practice with frequent harassment and detention of journalists. Libel is criminalized by law, and a dozen members of the small private press corps served jail time in 2005 or paid hefty fines under the libel laws. In such a conservative, ethnically polarized society, many subjects are considered off-limits for the press, including the armed rebellion on the border with Sudan and recurring tensions between tribal clans. The High Council of Communication (HCC), the official media regulatory body, has the authority to suspend publications and broadcast outlets for defamation or excessive criticism of the government, particularly President Idriss Deby. In recent years, the HCC has increasingly made use of this authority. In May, the government continued its intimidation of Radio Brakos, a small private radio station in the south of the country, with an HCC suspension of the station's broadcasting license, allegedly because of "recurring conflicts between Radio Brakos and administrative and military authorities."
Throughout the year, four journalists were arbitrarily detained. Among them was Tchanguis Vatankah, the director of Radio Brakos, who was held for more than two months without charge and threatened with forced exile (Vatankah is an Iranian citizen and political refugee who has resided in Chad for many years). Garonde Djarma and Ngaradoumbe Samory, respectively a columnist and the editor of the private daily L'Observateur, were also jailed for three months for publishing a letter critical of the administration's treatment of ethnic minorities. In July, Djarma was sentenced to three years in prison for defamation of the president and "inciting hatred" for criticizing a controversial constitutional amendment allowing the president to stay in office for a third term. In August, Djarma was sentenced to an additional year in prison for "inciting hatred" in an interview that ran in L'Observateur in which he blamed the charges against him on a conspiracy by Arab members of the government. The paper's publication director, Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, who conducted the interview, was also sentenced to a year in jail. In August, members of Chad's Union of Private Radio Stations were so outraged by the number of arbitrary detentions that they organized demonstrations and a weeklong strike, during which all private print publications and radio broadcasts were replaced with bulletins on the state of press freedom in the country. As a result, in late August the HCC's ban on Radio Brakos was lifted, but only on the condition that Tchanguis, the imprisoned director, no longer be associated with the station. Soon after, an appeals court overturned the sentences on Djarma, Samory, and Gali and they were released immediately.
Newspapers that criticize the government circulate freely but have little impact on the largely rural and illiterate population. According to the BBC, radio is the primary medium of mass communication, but state control over broadcast media allows few dissenting views. The only television station, Teletchad, is state owned, and its coverage favors the government. Despite high licensing fees for commercial radio stations, there are 13 privately owned stations on the air, some operated by nonprofit groups (including human rights groups and the Roman Catholic Church). These broadcasters are subject to close official scrutiny, and those that fail to pay annual fees to the state are threatened with closure. Access to the internet is limited by the high level of poverty in Chad, but the government refrains from restricting access to those who can afford it. Nonetheless, according to the U.S. State Department, the government does occasionally engage in monitoring e-mail through the main post office server.
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