Media council lifts ban on independent radio station

New York, August 24, 2005—Chad lifted a ban on Tuesday on Radio Brakos which was taken off air three months ago for reports critical of government and military officials, station director Tchanguis Vatankah told CPJ. He said the station would resume broadcasting in the remote southern town of Moissala shortly but would join this week’s protest by private media against the jailing of four journalists in Chad.

The High Council of Communications (HCC), an official media regulatory body, lifted the ban, which it imposed in May citing “recurring conflicts between Radio Brakos and administrative and military authorities.”

Chad’s Union of Private Radio Stations (URPT) protested the ban. It followed a complaint from a local traditional leader whom Radio Brakos had accused of pocketing money for a development project, according to URPT head Zara Yacoub. She said that a local military commander had also threatened Vatankah after Radio Brakos aired reports criticizing him.

Vatankah said he was still suffering also from injuries sustained in February 2004 when police officers assaulted him and detained him for 48 hours without charge.

“We welcome the restoration of Radio Brakos’s license, but it should never have been suspended in the first place,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on Chadian authorities to ensure that the station and its director can resume their work without fear of reprisal.

“We also join our Chadian colleagues in calling for the immediate release of the four journalists jailed since June in a chilling clampdown on the independent media,” Cooper continued.
“Chad is now the second worst jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea,” she added.

Chad’s private newspapers have stopped publishing this week, while radio stations have mostly suspended news programs, in protest at the imprisonment of the four journalists, on charges ranging from defaming the president to “inciting hatred.” Their prison sentences range from three months to three years.

Radio is an important source of information in Chad, especially outside the capital N’Djamena, where literacy is low and few newspapers distribute. Radio Brakos is the only broadcaster in Moissala.

To read more about Chad’s jailed journalists click here: