Country Report Central African Republic October 1998 Main report

Political scene: Authorities back down on media manipulation

The government has been forced to abandon a scheme to control the output of news on national radio and television during the run-up to the election. On July 29th the authorities announced that a "co-ordinating unit" would be set up, charged with checking all news items before they were broadcast. The next day listeners and viewers were deprived of all news, as members of the censorship committee had not yet been appointed. Journalists at the broadcasting organisation began an immediate strike in protest. They had already written a letter to the communications minister complaining that President Patasse had been trying to muzzle their freedom to report. They claim they had been pressurised not to cover Mr Ngoupande's return (see above). Such attempts at censorship, however clumsy and ineffective, are clearly contrary to the pre-electoral climate of democratic freedom the UN is trying to foster. It seems likely that the authorities came under heavy pressure over the issue from Oluyemi Adeniji and major donors, as on July 31st they announced the suspension of the co- ordinating committee.

© 1998 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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