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N'Djamena's privately-owned press starts publishing again for first time since state of emergency proclaimed

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders provided financial support for the publication in N'Djamena, on 28 March 2008, of a "newspaper of newspapers," a single issue combining most of the independent Chadian weeklies that have not appeared since a state of emergency was proclaimed on 15 February. It calls for the repeal of a press law imposed by decree on 20 February.

"The independent N'Djamena-based press is showing a united front to the government with this single issue at a time when many journalists are in exile and there is a great deal of fear and uncertainty about the future," Reporters Without Borders said. "By working together, the independent press has found a way to return to work and to demand, with a single voice, the repeal of an archaic law adopted in unfair circumstances."

The Professional Association of Chadian Media decided on 20 March, in coordination with Reporters Without Borders, to bring out a joint publication which would be produced by the staff of the capital's four main newspapers - "N'Djaména Bi-Hebdo", "L'Observateur", "Le Temps" and "Le Miroir" - and which would display the logos of "Notre Temps" (closed since 15 December 2007) and radio FM Liberté (closed by the police on 16 February 2008).

With a print run of 10,000 copies and selling for 200 CFA francs (approx. 0.30 euros), the 16-page issue contains an appeal for press freedom in Chad and, in particular, for the repeal of Decree No. 5 on the press, which was issued on 20 February.

This law increased the maximum penalty for "false news" and defamation (articles 41 and 47) to three years in prison and the maximum penalty for "insulting the president" (article 48) to five years. Under article 15 of the old law, anyone wanting to launch a newspaper just had to file a declaration with the ministry of commerce. Now they have to appear before the prosecutor's office and the High Council of Communication.

The law was suddenly imposed after two years of difficult negotiations between the government and the privately-owned press aimed at reforming the previous law in accordance with a promise which President Idriss Déby Itno made to Reporters Without Borders in September 2005.

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