The constitution provides for freedom of opinion, expression, and press, but the government severely restricted these rights, according to Freedom House. Authorities used threats and legal prosecutions to curb critical reporting.
Freedom of Speech and Expression: The law prohibits “inciting racial, ethnic, or religious hatred,” which is punishable by up to two years in prison and a fine of one to three million Central African (CFA) francs ($1,730 to $5,200). Despite a 2010 media law that abolished prison sentences for defamation or insult, authorities arrested and detained persons for defamation.
On June 7, a local radio station in Moundou broadcast an interview with Djeralar Miankeol, who criticized corrupt practices in the judiciary. On June 15, security forces arrested Moundou for “contempt of court.” He was subsequently sentenced to a two-year prison term and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs ($173). On July 28, the Appellate Court of Moundou overturned the earlier verdict and dropped all charges against Miankeol.
Press and Media Freedoms: The government subsidized the only daily newspaper and owned a biweekly newspaper. Government and opposition newspapers had limited readership outside the capital due to low literacy rates and lack of distribution in rural areas.
Radio remained the most important medium of mass communication. The government-owned Radiodiffusion Nationale Tchadienne had several stations. There were numerous private radio stations that broadcast throughout the country that paid an initial licensing fee of CFA 250,000 ($417). Many of them were owned by religious and community organizations. Radio call-in programs broadcast the views of callers that included open criticism of the government.
The country had three television stations.
Violence and Harassment: Authorities arrested and beat journalists. For example, on October 2, security forces arrested without warrant Stephane Mbairabe Ouaye, publisher of Haut Parleur, an independent newspaper published twice a month. While held in a detention center attached to the N’Djamena police headquarters, Mbairabe was handcuffed, blindfolded, and beaten by plainclothes police to make him reveal his sources for an article entitled “Salay Deby, national thief”; the article criticized the president and his brother, Director General of Customs Salay Deby. Mbairabe, who was released, was awaiting trial on libel charges at year’s end. In a separate case in July, after publication of an article entitled “Itno Brothers Maintain the Dictatorship,” Mbairabe received a court summons “in order to find him guilty of the charges against him and order him to pay Salay Deby such amount as will be fixed at the bar.” Commenting on the July case, Reporters without Borders (RSF) stated, “It is a strange summons to a hearing that predicts the defendant’s guilt in advance.”
Foreign correspondents also were harassed and abused. Laurent Correau--a correspondent with Radio France International who was in the country to report on the trial of former president Hissene Habre--claimed police “brutalized” him before taking him to the airport in N’Djamena, from where he was deported on June 23. Correau was preparing a series of reports on the Habre trial.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: The government penalized those who published items counter to government guidelines, sometimes by closing media outlets. Some journalists and publishers practiced self-censorship.
On July 10, an N’Djamena judge ordered the closure of the weekly Abba Garde at the request of the High Council for Communication (HCC), which acted in response to a complaint by the President’s Office, according to RSF. A separate court order issued the same day demanded the seizure of all copies of issue No. 109. Both orders, according to RSF, appeared to be in response to an article entitled “Idriss Deby, the Hitler of Modern Times,” which was published in issue No. 108. Commenting on the closure, RSF noted, “Regardless of what the journalist wrote, the decision to close the newspaper contravenes Chad’s 2010 press law, article 44 of which states that such a decision can only be taken by a court after a hearing in which the affected party is able to defend itself.” RSF also noted that the seizure was clearly arbitrary, since it was the preceding issue that had the offending article. According to Moussaye Avenir de la Tchire, the publisher of Abba Garde, harassment of the newspaper began on July 5, when ANS members tried to arrest him in the southeastern town of Bongor. De la Tchire, who fled the country for one month and then returned, had been arrested and detained for four months in 2013.
The HCC occasionally warned journalists to practice “responsible” journalism or face fines. For example, on September 19, HCC president Moustafa Ali Alifei warned members of the Chadian Press Agency that the HCC would sanction any media organ “that does not respect ethics and professional conduct or calls for revolt.”
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
According to multiple sources, internet penetration was between 17 and 20 percent.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.