Can you describe the Project to Strengthen the Media Sector in the Democratic Process in Chad?
In 2009-2010, GRET conducted a project to encourage both more information for citizens of Chad and more dialogue with the government authorities. It aimed to encourage freedom of expression, democratic pluralism and information, and was part of the EU’s program to support the electoral process in Chad. (Link project factsheet #1179 in the project database?).
The first General Assembly of Communication took place in May 2009, with a record attendance of 187 delegates. Experts from Benin, Cameroon and France shared their experiences. Of the forty-four recommendations adopted, four have already been implemented: the repeal of the very liberty-killing Ordinance No. 5, the decriminalization of press offenses, the establishment of the Press Center, and the organization of a reflection workshop on the conflictual relations between the media and major institutions in the Republic. It was the first time that many radio and provincial newspaper journalists and ministers had the opportunity to meet to discuss their respective roles in the democratic process.
Have you seen any changes in how political news is covered?
The training courses had an immediate effect. The headlines are no longer negative as they were in the past when the independent press played the role of opposing force in the place of political bodies. Article titles are becoming much more constructive and informative. Radio programs have also evolved considerably. They provide information on administrative activities and the economic potential of regions and cities in Chad.
What changes have you seen in the regulatory body (HCC) and in the self-regulation body (ODEMET)?
Much has changed in the Haut Counseil de la Communication (HCC) since the end of the project. During sessions of the General Assembly of Communication, the Sudanese armed forces attacked the eastern portion of the country. The government, its allied political parties and the major institutions of the Republic published articles denouncing the “Sudanese aggression.” The HCC did the same. Voices were raised in the room to condemn this attitude. Since then, the HCC has been very careful. It even organized a prize for the best journalistic production; most of the winners were journalists who took part in GRET’s training courses.
ODEMET (Chad’s media ethics observatory) organized its 2nd general assembly and obtained the status of non-profit association. It also wrote a report on the state of the press (2008-2010) in Chad, and has recruited permanent staff in charge of monitoring the press (watch and critical review of some colleagues’ practices). This is a way to be judged by one’s peers. Since then, ODEMET has become well known to the government authorities, the media world, and civil society associations.