President Idriss Deby began the year with bad news. On January 2, the rebel Movement for Democracy and Justice (MDJT) announced that it had killed the head of Deby’s security team, General Kerim Nassour, and his aide, Colonel Fadoul Allamine. The next day, Deby was heard on state radio pleading with the MDJT to end the standoff in the northern Tibesti region, which he said kept foreign investors away from Chad. But fighting only intensified.
Meanwhile, Chad’s independent press geared up to cover the May 20 presidential election amid mounting criticism of their ethics and lack of training. Ironically, most of the vitriol came from the state press, which was itself attacked for favoring Deby’s Rally of Democratic Forces (RFDT).
State and independent journalists were still at each other’s throats in early February, when a court in the capital, N’Djamena, sentenced Mickael Didama of the independent weekly Le Temps to a suspended six-month jail term. The ruling related to a December 2000 story accusing General Mahammat Ali Abdallah, a nephew of President Deby, of plotting several coup attempts.
Around that time, the World Bank appointed an International Advisory Group (IAG) on the planned 600-mile oil pipeline between Chad and Cameroon. Among other duties, the Bank said the IAG would work on reducing poverty in Chad and tracking government use of revenues generated by the oil project. The bank’s announcement caused much nervousness among officials, journalists told CPJ, as it bolstered popular demands for an unbiased commission to probe corruption in this desert nation where radical Islam is rapidly becoming a political force.
In early April, President Deby dismissed all ministers from the National Union for Development and Renewal (UNDR) from his coalition government after the party endorsed Agriculture Minister Saleh Kebzabo as its candidate. Then on April 17, a month before the elections, the official High Council on Communications (HCC) barred all non-state radio stations from airing “programs of a political nature,” threatening to suspend delinquent stations.
Predictably, Deby made short work of his opponents, raking in 67 percent of the first round ballots. The vote was followed by weeks of violent unrest nationwide. Several members of the state electoral commission resigned in protest prior to Deby’s landslide and his opponents, citing massive fraud, have vowed to contest the results in court.
The election was also marred by the expulsion from Chad of two observers from Côte d’Ivoire and of Roger-Francois Hubert, a reporter with the Ivorian daily Le Belier, on the ground that they had no official clearance.
All community radio stations
Chad’s High Council on Communications (HCC) barred all private radio stations from airing “political debates” or “programs of a political nature” in the weeks before the May 20 presidential elections.
The state-operated HCC threatened to suspend stations that did not comply with its instructions. To CPJ’s knowledge, HCC officials had not previously interfered with broadcast programming in Chad.
Except for the national radio network, all of Chad’s radio broadcasters are so-called community stations, meaning they broadcast within a 300-kilometer (180-mile) range.