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Presidential decree increases jail terms for press offences; IFJ calls for end to media crackdown

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 3 March 2008 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls on Chadian Government to End "Media Crackdown"

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Chad to end the increasing pressure on media after President Idriss Deby Itno signed a decree increasing jail terms for media offences and government raids have forced at least 10 journalists and newspapers directors to flee the country or go into hiding.

"The situation in Chad is chaotic as government control of the media and its intimidation tactics have forced the few independent journalists remaining there into hiding," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We call on the government of Chad to put an end to this new crackdown on the media and end the criminalization of press offences."

President Deby Itno signed a decree on 21 February to harden the law on the media, increasing jail terms for press libel and increasing government censorship. A state of emergency declared on 15 February already restricts media coverage and says that private newspapers are subject to preliminary approval by government officials before publication.

The state of emergency was extended for 15 more days on Friday by the national assembly.

After the fighting in the capital city N'Djamena in early February at least 10 journalists and media directors fled the country in fear for their lives. Others are in hiding after government forces searched their houses.

In protest against the draconian measures, the major independent newspapers have suspended publication about two weeks ago. Some radio stations have followed suit and stopped broadcasting news.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries.

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