Judicial intimidation of editor and newspaper in Chad

Lagos, Nigeria, October 5, 2012–Chadian authorities are abusing the judicial and law enforcement systems to silence news coverage critical of the government’s performance, censoring publications and targeting one editor with an unjust criminal conviction. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the government to immediately halt its actions.

“Using the criminal code to intimidate journalists and censor coverage is an abuse of power,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita from New York. “We call on authorities to stop criminal prosecutions based on news coverage and to allow critical publications to circulate freely.”

A judge in N’Djamena, the capital, convicted Jean-Claude Nekim, editor of the biweekly N’Djamena Bi-Hebdo, on criminal defamation charges on September 18 after the paper had published excerpts of a trade union petition that was critical of the government. The judge then imposed a 12-month suspended prison sentence on Nekim, a fine of 1 million CFA francs (US$2,000), and a three-month ban against the paper, according to news reports. It was unclear whether Nekim planned to appeal the conviction.

The petition, which was started by leaders of the Union of Trade Unions, criticized the government for alleged nepotism and mismanagement and called for an end to abuses of power and high costs of living, news reports said. Three union leaders were sentenced to prison in connection with the petition and fined after being convicted of “incitement to racial hatred,” the reports said. The case will be appealed, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported.

Nekim faces an additional pending criminal case. After Nekim’s newspaper published a caricature of the judges sentencing him for defamation, he was charged with a new count of insulting the judiciary, according to news reports. He faces possible imprisonment if found guilty on October 16, news reports said.

The government has sought to silence coverage supporting Nekim. State Prosecutor Mahamat Saleh Idriss banned the distribution of a special publication on September 27 that was produced collectively by Chadian journalists and activists showing support for Nekim and N’Djamena Bi-Hebdo, RFI reported.

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