Journalists in Chad have begun a one-week news blackout to protest the jailing of four independent reporters by the government of President Idriss Deby.

Deby, who took power in a coup in 1990 but validated his position through elections in 1996 and 2001, sparked a wave of criticism at home and abroad in June when he pushed through constitutional changes allowing him to run for a third term in 2006.

One of the arrested journalists had written a piece criticising Deby’s constitutional changes. Previously the constitution limited presidents to two consecutive terms in office.

A number of journalists said the Deby government has become increasingly repressive towards the private media, which have been largely critical of Deby’s third-term ambitions.

Nadjikimo Benoudjita, president of the Chadian Association of Private Newspaper Editors (AEPT), said Chadian journalists are paying the price for criticising Deby and that he hopes their strike will help rally international support to stop the government crackdown.

“We want the pressure of international opinion to seize this government,” he said.

Not that you’d notice a news blackout in the West: Chad, one of the world’s poorest countries despite being an oil exporter, is also one of the least reported on in the world.