JULY 18, 2005
Updated: October 17, 2005
Ngaradoumbé Samory, L’Observateur
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Samory, editor of the private weekly L’Observateur, was sentenced to three months in prison and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs (about U.S.$176) on charges of defaming the president and “inciting hatred.”
According to CPJ sources, Samory was charged in connection with L’Observateur‘s publication of an open letter to President Idriss Déby, local sources said. The letter was written under a pseudonym on behalf of members of a minority ethnic group known as the Kreda whom the government had detained and accused of mounting a rebellion. The letter criticized the government’s treatment of the Kreda. Samory was asked to reveal the author’s identity, but he refused to do so, local sources told CPJ.
The same day, a freelance contributor to the newspaper was sentenced to three years in jail in connection with an unrelated commentary. Samory and the contributor, Garondé Djarma, were jailed in the capital, N’Djamena, immediately after the sentencing, local sources said.
On June 21, Samory and Djarma were arrested, charged and imprisoned for two weeks pending their trial. The journalists were granted a provisional release on procedural grounds on July 4, sparking hopes that the prosecutor would drop the case.
The journalists’ arrests coincided with that of Michaël Didama, publication director of the private weekly Le Temps, who was arrested on June 22 and criminally charged in connection with his journalistic work. Local journalists interviewed by CPJ said the arrests reflected a crackdown on critical media in the wake of a controversial constitutional referendum held on June 6. On June 22, the government announced that the public had voted in favor of a constitutional amendment to allow President Idriss Déby to remain in office for a third term. The referendum was heavily criticized by opposition and civil society groups.
On September 8, Samory was granted a provisional release from jail pending a decision in his appeal. On September 26, an appeals court in N’Djamena overturned Samory’s sentence on procedural grounds, rendering his conviction null. Following decisions in their appeals, Djarma and Didama were released from prison the same day.