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Chad2 April 2002

Authorities ban political programmes on private radio stations ahead of legislative election

In a letter to Emmanuel Touade, president of the High Council of Communications (Haut conseil de la communication - HCC), Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) protested the decision to bar private, community and associative radio stations from programming "political debates" or "programmes of a political nature" during the entire legislative election campaign. The election is scheduled for 21 April 2002. RSF asked the HCC president to reconsider his decision and allow all of the country’s media outlets to cover the election freely. "The authorities are trying to prevent private radio stations from participating in the country’s political debate during the electoral campaign," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard. "It is unacceptable that only public audiovisual media are allowed to report on the elections. Everything leads us to believe that the authorities are hiding behind technical arguments in order to deprive citizens of information pluralism," added Ménard.

According to information gathered by RSF, on 30 March, the HCC announced its decision to ban the recording, programming or broadcasting of "all political programmes [and debates] or ones of a political nature . on the airwaves of private, associative or community radio stations". Furthermore, the HCC decided that programmes broadcasting the official campaign could be suspended "if the content is insulting or provocative, or contrary to provisions of the law and regulations in force". According to a source close to the HCC, this decision was made due to the regulating authority’s technical inability to control each political party’s airtime on private radio stations and thus avoid any "imbalance."

RSF recalled that, on 17 April 2001, the HCC had adopted decision no. 002/HCC/P/SG/2001 "regulating the media campaign for the 2001 presidential election". Article 23 of the text stipulated that "during the entire 2001 presidential election campaign period, any political debate or debate of a political nature is banned on the airwaves of private, associative or community radio stations". The next article stipulated that information bulletins "must not be backed up by commentary". Finally, Article 35 indicated that radio stations "that do not conform to the present decision will be suspended during the entire electoral campaign period".

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