Journalist sentenced to six months in jail

New York, August 8, 2005—Michaël Didama, director of the private weekly Le Temps, was convicted on charges of defamation and incitement to hatred today 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 news Web site Alwihda, which is linked to the armed opposition Renewed Chadian National Front. 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, CPJ sources said. Didama was arrested and criminally charged on July 22.

Didama is the third Chadian journalist to be jailed for his work this year. Ngaradoumbé Samory, editor-in-chief of the private weekly L’Observateur, and Garondé Djarma, a freelance writer, were sentenced to prison terms in July. To read more about their cases, see CPJ’s July 18 alert.

“We’re alarmed by authorities’ use of vaguely worded legislation to imprison journalists,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on authorities to release Michaël Didama and stop this crackdown immediately.”