New York, April 16, 2004—Mathurin Constant Momet, publication director of the independent daily Le Confident, and Le Confident Editor-in-Chief Patrick Bakwa were detained today by police in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), and held for questioning.
Local sources said the two were summoned to the police station at about 11 a.m. in connection with a report about a press conference by Maximilien Boganda, a Central African businessman. Le Confident reported that during the press conference, Boganda criticized his former lawyer, Pierre Ouadda-Diale, and called the CAR’s judicial system confused and mafia-like.
According to these sources, the two journalists were summoned to the gendarmerie because Ouadda-Diale filed defamation charges against them.
Momet told a local radio station on Friday afternoon that the state prosecutor is keeping them in detention pending the return of Boganda, who is currently in France, to confirm or deny the statements attributed to him. Attempts to reach the state prosecutor were unsuccessful.
“Irrespective of the merits of the defamation case,” said CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Joel Campagna, “journalists should never be jailed for their work. We call for their immediate release.”
Three journalists are now detained in the Central African Republic, despite promises by authorities to respect press freedom and decriminalize press offenses.