Chadian journalists given suspended jail terms, released

Three Chadian journalists jailed for several months in the capital, N’Djamena, while facing prosecution on defamation and anti-state charges, were handed suspended jail terms and then released, according to news reports and local journalists.

A court on August 19, 2013, convicted Eric Topona, secretary-general of the Union of Chadian Journalists, and Jean Etienne Laokolé, a freelance journalist and blogger, of criminal defamation and “unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the constitutional order” in connection with their alleged contributions to an opposition blog critical of the government,, according to news reports. As evidence, prosecutors presented alleged email exchanges between Topona and Laokolé that discussed calls for a popular uprising, Agence France-Presse reported.

Laokolé was arrested and jailed on March 22, 2013. Topona was arrested on May 6, 2013, and accused of working with Laokolé. Both journalists have denied the charges and disputed the authenticity of the emails, according to local journalists.

Laokolé appealed the sentence, his defense lawyer, Pierre Mianlengar, told CPJ. Topona’s lawyer, Sobdibé Zoua, has said that the journalist is also appealing, according to news reports.

A third journalist, Moussaye Avenir De La Tchiré, editor of the private trimonthly Abba Garde, was convicted on August 29, 2013, of “incitement to hatred and a popular uprising” in connection with an article critical of President Idriss Déby, Agence France-Presse reported. De La Tchiré, who had been imprisoned since May 7, was sentenced to a suspended jail term of two years and a fine of 1 million CFA francs (US$2,000).

De La Tchiré is appealing the sentence, he told CPJ.