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Independent media continued to be active and were generally able to criticize the government.

Coverage by state-owned broadcasters had favored the incumbents in the run-up to July 2005 elections, and at least four cases of violence against journalists were reported that year, but the country largely avoided a repeat of such problems in 2006.

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Article 34 of the new constitution, passed in January 2004, provides for freedom of the press and of expression.

The May 2004 press law guarantees the right of citizens to obtain information and prohibits censorship.

However, it retains broad restrictions on content that is "contrary to the principles of Islam or offensive to other religions and sects" and "matters leading to dishonoring and defaming individuals." The legislation also establishes a government-appointed commission with the power to decide if journalists who contravene the law should face court prosecutions or fines.

Critics of the law have alleged that its prohibition of "anti-Islamic" writings is overly vague and has led to considerable confusion within the journalistic community on what constitutes permissible content.

Press freedom advocates in 2006 continued to urge the government to decriminalize defamation, which could incur a maximum sentence of two years in prison under existing statutes.

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