A lower court in N’Djamena yesterday ordered the release of Michael Didama, the editor of the weekly Le Temps, who had been detained since 22 June. The court’s president dismissed the proceedings against him on a technicality.
Meanwhile, Samory Ngaradoumbé and Garondé Djarma, the two journalists who were released last week, appeared in court again yesterday on identical charges to the ones originally brought against them. The state prosecutor requested prison sentences of six months and three years, respectively, and heavy fines. The next hearing has been set for 18 July.
05.07.05Two journalists released, one still held
A lower criminal court in N’Djamena yesterday ordered the release of L’Observateur journalists Samory Ngaradoumbé and Garondé Djarma, who were arrested on 22 June. But Le Temps editor Michael Didama, who was arrested the same day on an unrelated charge, is still being held. A court is due to hear his case on 11 July.
23.06.05 Appeal to funders to apply pressure as three journalists thrown in jail
Reporters Without Borders has appealed to Chad’s funders to press the government to release journalists Samory Ngaradoumbé and Garondé Djarma of the weekly L’Observateur, and Michael Didama, of the weekly Le Temps.
"It is appalling to see such enthusiasm for throwing journalists in prison for the sole reason that they have displeased the head of state or government," said Reporters Without Borders.
"Should we need to point out that, unless one wants to openly flout UN demands, prison sentences for press offences should be revoked". Chad seems to be among countries that do not wish to comply and makes a worrying use of draconian legislation.
"If it wants to prove the contrary, Samory Ngaradoumbé, Garondé Djarma and Michael Didama should be released. Chad’s main funders - France, the World Bank and the European Union among others - cannot continue to back a country that is responsible for these abuses without demanding genuine press freedom in exchange."
Judicial police arrested the three journalists on 22 June 2005 based on two complaints lodged by government minister secretary-general responsible for relations with parliament. The Chadian journalists’ union (UJT) said that Ngaradoumbé and Djarma, respectively editorial co-ordinator and journalist on the L’Observateur, were accused of "lying remarks and incitement to hatred" and placed under a committal order to prison in N’Djaména.
Didama, managing editor of Le Temps was placed under a committal order the same day, accused by the government of publishing a report one month ago on rebels in Eastern Chad and Sudan.
Ngaradoumbé was arrested previously on 4 June and questioned by the counter-espionage National Security Agency (ANS). He was put in custody after his paper carried an open letter to President Idriss Deby on 1st June from the Kreda community complaining of arrests of its members and seeking their immediate release.
ANS had turned up at the newspaper and arrested him. After a 48-hour period during which he refused to name the author of the open letter, Ngaradoumbé was released on 6 June, but the security minister raised the possibility that further action would be taken against him.