JULY 18, 2005
Updated: October 17, 2005
Garondé Djarma, freelance
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
Djarma, a freelance journalist and commentator who contributes frequently to local publications, was sentenced to three years in prison and one million CFA francs (about U.S. $1,764) in fines for defaming the president and “inciting hatred.”
According to local sources, Djarma was charged in connection with a June 15 commentary in the private weekly L’Observateur in which he criticized President Idriss Déby and a controversial constitutional amendment allowing the president to stay in office for a third term, local sources said. The government announced on June 22 that voters approved the measure at a June 6 referendum, over the protests of opposition and civil society groups.
The same day, the newspaper’s editor was sentenced to three months in jail in connection with an unrelated commentary. Djarma and the editor, Ngaradoumbé Samory, 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.
Local journalists interviewed by CPJ said the arrests reflected a crackdown on critical media in the wake of the constitutional referendum.
On August 15, Djarma was sentenced to an additional one-year prison term for “inciting hatred” in an interview that ran in L’Observateur. In the interview, Djarma blamed the charges against him on a conspiracy of Arab members of the government, whom he referred to as “janjaweed.” Publication director Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, who conducted the interview, was also sentenced to a year in jail.
On September 26, an appeals court in N’Djamena overturned both sentences against Djarma, citing procedural irregularities. Djarma was released the same day, along with Sy, whose sentence was also overturned.