Chadian Journalists: “The eyes and ears of the public” Reviewed by Momizat on . N’Djamena, 25-26-27 March 2014 Journalists play and will play a key role in the media coverage of Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC). Journalists for the main N’Djamena, 25-26-27 March 2014 Journalists play and will play a key role in the media coverage of Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC). Journalists for the main Rating: 0

Chadian Journalists: “The eyes and ears of the public”

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N’Djamena, 25-26-27 March 2014

Journalists play and will play a key role in the media coverage of Extraordinary African Chambers (EAC). Journalists for the mainstream media in Chad, ten of whom had come from the provinces, participated in three information days with the Outreach Consortium. This was intended to give them the methodological and practical tools to cover an international criminal trial taking place remotely.

“Journalists are the hardcore for media coverage of outreach activities, but even more so for a possible trial,” said Gilbert Maoundonodji, coordinator of activities in Chad, at the opening of the training. For three days, journalists were able to discuss the following themes with Consortium speakers: “The EAC: history, mandate and functioning” with Hugo Jombwe, an expert in international law; “The role of the media in a large trial – interests and specific issues” with Franck Petit, communications expert; and “Update on victim participation, associations present in Chad, challenges for Chad” with Mr Maoundonodji.

Other key topics were discussed: “Interviewing victims – why and with what precautions?”; “Access to information, rights and duties of journalists”; “The rights of the defence, an essential component of a fair trial”; “The issues of judicial cooperation”; “How to cover the key moments of a trial?” These exchange workshops were interspersed with field reports in different neighbourhoods of N’Djamena, at the Plain of the Dead, in the premises of the Chadian judicial Pool, and with those complainants who had come from the provinces to register as civil parties.

The discussions were extremely rich, with journalists asking many questions and sharing their views with respect to what they call “the Habré affair”. Some say they have experienced pressure in areas of the country where people close to the former regime continue to exert influence. Many question themselves and have doubts about the effective running of a trial at the AEC, its usefulness after twenty-four years in the waiting, and the political will of Chad and Senegal.

No place of remembrance

In their reporting, journalists have pointed the lack of a place of remembrance, particularly at the Plain of the Dead. This is one of the most perturbing topics for the survivors and families of the victims of DDS that were buried there, who do not understand why the authorities let people build houses on such a symbolic site. Some hope that one day the houses will be demolished to make way for the construction of a monument.

After the three-day workshop, several journalists assured us they felt more comfortable about covering a topic they sometimes gave a miss “for fear of reprisals from former DDS officials who have remained in power” as one of them explained. They now feel better equipped to seek the truth, expose the unhealthy practices related to this issue, and cover a possible trial in a more balanced manner, taking into account the views of all parties to the proceedings.

The speakers urged the journalists to balance their stories as much as possible, whether working for private or public media, radio or the press. They were strongly advised to consistently cross-check testimony before publishing and not to forget they are the eyes and ears of the public by definition, across all points of view and all opinions. Journalists remain in contact with the Consortium, which is organising a follow-up to this workshop in order to facilitate their work and enable them to network with Senegalese colleagues in a non partisan and independent manner.

The Consortium

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