AUGUST 8, 2005
Updated: October 17, 2005

Michaël Didama, Le Temps

Michaël Didama, director of the private weekly Le Temps, was convicted on charges of defamation and incitement to hatred and sentenced to six months in jail in connection with articles describing rebel groups in eastern Chad, according to local sources.

The charges stemmed from May articles in Le Temps, one of which reported a resurgence of rebel movements in areas bordering the troubled Sudanese province of Darfur. The other described an alleged massacre of civilians in the same region, accompanied by a photograph of people said to be victims. According to local sources, the photograph was taken from the private news Web site Alwihda. Le Temps has stood by its stories.

The High Council of Communication, a local media regulatory body, had previously studied the articles in response to complaints from government officials, but decided in early June that the newspaper was not guilty of incitement, according to local sources.

Didama was arrested and criminally charged on June 22, then held in detention until July 11, when he was released on procedural grounds.

Didama is one of four journalists sentenced to prison this year. Ngaradoumbé Samory, editor-in-chief of the private weekly L’Observateur, and Garondé Djarma, a freelance writer, were sentenced to three months and three years in jail, respectively, in July. Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, publication director of L’Observateur, was sentenced to a year in jail on August 15.

Didama was released from prison on September 26, following a decision on his appeal by an appeals court in N’Djamena. The court upheld his conviction, but reduced his sentence to time served. The same day, Djarma, Samory and Sy had their convictions overturned by the court.