Journalist sentenced to six months in jail

New York, March 12, 2004—Judes Zossé, publication director of the private daily newspaper L’Hirondelle (The Swallow) in the Central African Republic (CAR), was sentenced today to six months in prison and fined 200,000 CFA francs (US$375). He was charged with “insulting the head of state.”

“This harsh sentence belies the CAR government’s stated commitment to press freedom,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). “We call on authorities in CAR to release Judes Zossé immediately and unconditionally.”

Zossé’s lawyer told CPJ that he would appeal the sentence. CPJ sent a letter to CAR President François Bozizé yesterday calling for Zossé’s release. [Read the letter.]