New York, May 17, 2004—Judes Zossé, publication director of the private daily newspaper L’Hirondelle (The Swallow) in the Central African Republic, was released from prison on Friday, May 14, under a presidential pardon.
He had served more than two months of a six-month sentence for defaming President François Bozizé.
On March 12, Zossé was sentenced to six months in prison and a fine for “insulting the head of state” after his newspaper reprinted an article from the opposition news Web site Centrafrique-presse.com. The report alleged that Bozizé, who came to power after a March 2003 coup, had personally taken over the collection of taxes in the country, prompting two senior Treasury officials to contemplate resignation.
“The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of Judes Zossé, but he never should have been jailed in the first place,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We call on authorities in the Central African Republic to work toward removing criminal penalties for press offenses.”