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Chad 19 July 2005

Two journalists get prison sentences over criticism of president

Reporters Without Borders voiced shock today at the "disproportionate" sentences of three years in prison for Garondé Djarma and three months in prison for Samory Ngaradoumbé handed down yesterday by a court in N’Djamena for "libel" and "incitement to hate" in reports about presidential policies. They were also ordered to pay heavy fines.

"It is absolutely unacceptable that journalists should get prison sentences just for writing articles criticising President Idriss Déby’s policies," the organisation said, adding that it also deplored the fact that the two men were initially imprisoned, then released on 5 July, and finally convicted and re-imprisoned all on the same charges.

Michael Didama of the newspaper Le Temps also appeared yesterday in court where the state prosecutor requested an 18-month prison sentence against him. Didama was arrested on 22 June and then released on 12 July.

A freelance journalist, Djarma was convicted for an article he wrote for L’Observateur criticising a 6 June referendum on a constitutional amendment that allows the president to seek a third term. Ngaradoumbé, who is editorial coordinator at L’Observateur, was convicted for publishing an open letter to the president criticising the arrests of members of the Kreda community. Their lawyer, Bernard Padaré, said he will appeal.

A number of Chadian human rights and press freedom groups have voiced concern about "pressure put by the government on the judges in charge of the case with the aim of obtaining prison sentences."

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