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Government lifts prior censorship for privately-owned print media

(RSF/IFEX) - On 30 May 2007, Reporters Without Borders was told by the Chadian government that the country's newspapers can again be published without having to obtain prior approval for each issue from a censorship committee that was set up under a state of emergency in November 2006.

"This a great relief," the press freedom organisation said. "The Chadian government has finally realised that all censorship did was humiliate and undermine the press, which was unfairly blamed for many problems."

Communication minister and government spokesman Hourmadji Moussa Doumgor told Reporters Without Borders on 30 May that "prior censorship, which was anyway less actively applied in recent weeks" is no longer in force and from now on newspapers may be published "without being referred to the committee."

The leading N'Djamena-based newspapers had already anticipated this announcement by bringing out or preparing their latest issues without submitting them to the communication ministry. The Chadian Association of Privately-Owned Press Editors (AEPT) decided at a meeting on the evening of 29 May to regard the state of emergency as having been lifted in practice even if there has not yet been any official communiqué to this effect.

Proclaimed on 13 November 2006 after a series of deadly clashes between Arab and non-Arab communities in the east of the country, the state of emergency was used by the authorities to re-impose prior censorship for the privately-owned print media and to ban radio and TV station from referring to matters "liable to undermine public order, national unity, territorial integrity and respect for public institutions."

The state of emergency expired at midnight (local time) on 25 May without the government this time requesting another extension from parliament, as required by the constitution. The special unit which the communication ministry created to implement prior censorship had been functioning since 14 November.

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