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National Assembly votes to extend state of emergency for six months, entrenching prior censorship of the press

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced dismay over the decision by the Chadian National Assembly to extend a 10-day-old state of emergency for six months, thereby maintaining prior censorship of the print media and permanent monitoring of independent radio stations.

"Deaf to the most obvious arguments, closed to all discussion and resolved to gag any critical publications, the Chadian government has taken a road that will only weaken it in the end," the press freedom organisation warned.

"Rightly or wrongly, the privately-owned press now fears it will be regarded as an enemy of the state and this will only further the interests of those who seek its overthrow," Reporters Without Borders added. "It is not too late to rescind these surveillance and censorship provisions, which are the most disturbing feature of this state of emergency."

Deputies voted by 77 to 0, with 6 abstentions, to extend the state of emergency for six months in the regions of Hadjer Lamis (Chari Baguirmi) in the west, BET (Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti) in the north, Moyen-Chari in the south and the capital of N'Djamena. An opposition deputy told Reporters Without Borders the vote took place without any prior debate.

Under the 13 November state of emergency (decree no. 1014), newspaper publishers "are required to obtain prior permission from the Regional Censorship Committee before printing newspapers."

The committee consists of senior officials from the Communication Ministry, the Directorate of Communication at the President's Office, the Prime Minister's Office, the Public Security and Immigration Ministry (intelligence services), the Defence Ministry, the Territorial Administration Ministry, and the Directorate for Administrative Issues. Its job is to "receive, read and authorise the publication of all news editions intended for public distribution."

Aside from the pro-governmental daily "Le Progrès", most of the N'Djamena newspapers have chosen to suspend publication after initially appearing with black strips and the words "Censored section" replacing articles viewed by the committee as "liable to undermine national unity."

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