New York, February 26, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the imprisonment of Judes Zossé, director of the private daily L’Hirondelle (The Swallow) in the Central African Republic (CAR).
Yesterday, police officers arrested Zossé, who had turned himself in after police had detained his brother, Didier Zossé. Didier Zossé, who is in charge of printing the newspaper, was later released without charge. Today, Judes Zossé was transferred from the police station to the central prison in the capital, Bangui.
Judes Zossé’s arrest stemmed from an article that was reproduced in L’Hirondelle on Monday, February 23, titled “General Bozizé: the State’s Tax-collector.” The article, which originally ran on the news Web site Centrafrique-presse.com alleged that Bozizé, who declared himself president after a March 2003 coup d’etat, has personally taken over the collection of state tax revenue in CAR, prompting two senior Treasury officials to contemplate resignation. Centrafrique-presse.com is a France-based opposition Web site run by former President Ange-Félix Patassé’s spokesperson Prosper N’Douba.
According to sources in Bangui, authorities have accused Zossé of “insulting the head of state.” It is unclear whether he has been formally charged.
“Arresting and imprisoning a journalist sends a worrying signal to CAR’s press,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on the authorities in the Central African Republic to release Judes Zossé immediately and unconditionally.”