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Chad 23 September 2005

President promises Reporters Without Borders to free two journalists

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said today that President Idriss Déby promised him during a meeting yesterday in N’Djamena that the appeals of imprisoned journalists Michaël Didama and Sy Koumbo Singa Gali will be heard on 26 September and that “whatever the outcome they will be released within 72 hours.”

Le Temps editor Didama and L’Observateur editor Gali have been convicted of “inciting hate and libel” and “inciting tribal hate.” Didada has been held since 8 August, while Gali has been held since 15 August.

Their appeals, and that of L’Observateur editorial coordinator Samory Ngaradoumbé, who has been released on bail, were due to have been heard yesterday but the hearings were postponed until 26 September because of a strike by court clerks and because the judge was ill.

On the other hand, there seems to be no prospect of imminent release for Garondé Djarma, 68, despite his poor health. A freelance journalist and columnist for L’Observateur, he is serving a four-year sentence for “libel” and inciting hate.”

During his meeting with President Déby, Ménard discussed proposed amendments to the legislation governing the Chadian press. “We are going to make proposals to the media and journalists’ organisations and it is up to them to present them to the competent authorities,” Ménard said.

He added: “The president of Chad recognises that journalists have problems in getting access to governmental news sources and he promised to change this.”

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