The political and security situation in Chad remains very unstable and poses significant risks for journalists. The death of President Idriss Déby in April 2021 led to a period of transition that was extended by two years in October 2022.
Since Chad began its democratic process in December 1990, the media landscape has expanded considerably and the media have acquired a certain independence, with the state media ceasing to have a monopoly on information. About ten newspapers (including L'Observateur, N'Djaména Hebdo, and Le Pays) appear regularly, four privately owned TV channels operate in N'Djaména, the capital, and around 60 radio stations operate nationwide. FM/Liberté, a radio station created by human rights activists, has the most listeners in the capital, in part because it has a network of reporters throughout the country.
The communication ministry controls the state media and the government appoints their editors. It also chooses most of the media regulator’s members. Media outlets can have their own editorial line, but investigative reporting that is critical of senior government officials and their close associates is not tolerated. Any media outlet publishing a report of this kind is liable to be suspended and the journalist responsible arrested arbitrarily, while foreign reporters can be expelled. Access to official information remains very difficult.
Press freedom and the right to information are enshrined in Chad’s laws. The 2010 press law abolished prison sentences for most press offences except defamation, which is still punishable by up to three months in prison. The cybercrime law adopted in 2019 exposes journalists working online to arbitrary arrest and detention. More than a dozen newspapers were suspended in 2020 under a new press law imposing minimum academic requirements for the position of newspaper editor. Its apparent aim was to professionalise the media but it could result in the elimination of many independent publications.
Conditions are precarious for the media, especially for privately owned outlets. Newspapers are very costly to print and the advertising market is limited, resulting in some newspapers operating at a loss. Although the state is supposed to provide an annual subsidy, newspapers have received nothing since 2016, except on the eve of the April 2021 presidential election.
Chad has had a transitional government since the 20 April 2021 death of President Idriss Déby, who had ruled with an iron fist for 30 years. Since his death, the authorities have urged journalists and the media to refrain from disseminating hate speech and to prioritise calls for peace – an undeclared form of censorship.
The presence in Chad of armed groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State poses a threat to media personnel. Assaults against journalists go unpunished, as evidenced by the murder of journalist Orédjé Narcisse who was shot dead in October 2022 and whose killers have never been arrested. In February 2022, a community radio reporter was also shot dead during an attack in southern Chad. Media personnel also face violence from the police while covering anti-government protests, and journalists working in the provinces are often the victims of arbitrary arrests and threats. Access to social media was blocked for 470 days in a row in 2018 and 2019, which established Chad as one of Africa’s worst cyber-censors in recent years.