In a country struggling to emerge from civil war, journalists and media organisations are caught between armed groups and the authorities. Official rapprochement with Russia has brought a surge in disinformation.
Only two television networks exist in the CAR, where radio remains the dominant source of information. Several dozen radio stations operate nationwide. Radio Ndeke Luka, one of the few outlets to respect facts and their sources in their reports, such as the Journalists Network for Human Rights and blogger and journalist associations who fact-check, is regularly pressured. The print media is comprised of about 60 publications, that are not distributed beyond Bangui, the capital, are easily manipulated. Content generally amounts to opinion pieces, rumours and slander campaigns.
Despite their exceptionally poor financial situation, which goes back years, state-owned media remain influential and are under government control. Journalists claim that the High Council for Communication imposes arbitrary sanctions. But these sanctions can also be imposed by the government itself, as was the case in 2021, when it blocked two news websites.
A new law on freedom of communication was adopted in 2020, replacing a statute that dated back to 2005. In theory, the law offers protection, but it does not uphold the practice of independent, fact-based journalism.
Poverty and war have impeded the development of the media sector. CAR journalists work under financially disastrous conditions. Per diem payments by event organisers are frequently reporters’ main source of income. When Russians arrived in 2018, they started a radio station and took charge of many media outlets and blogs that disseminate propaganda and false information, mostly targeting France and French journalists on the ground.
In a country where the state does not control most of the territory, officials are increasingly intolerant of criticism. Journalists who interview different participants in the conflict are regularly treated as spies or as accomplices of armed groups. Violence, pressure and threats against reporters are common. Those who commit crimes against journalists enjoy total impunity. The list of victims keeps growing: Elisabeth Blanche Olofio, Désiré Luc Sayenga, René Padou and French photojournalist Camille Lepage, as well as three Russian investigative reporters, Orkhan Dzhemal, Kirill Radchenko, Alexander Rastorguyev. The trio travelled to the CAR in 2018 to report on the presence of Russian mercenaries.