The good news in 2001 was unquestionably the new press law passed by parliament, abolishing jail sentences for offences such as libel and insult. However, jail sentences are still provided for in cases of "incitement to violence, racism and unrest". This law also liberalises the broadcasting sector, although political parties are not allowed to create private radio stations or television channels. Lastly, the new law provides for the creation of a supervisory body for freedom of information, with the authority to control the press.
State-owned media remain at the service of the powers-that-be. Journalists working for public radio and television have no independence; the editorial line is decided by the communication minister.
One journalist jailed
Richard N’Sana, managing editor of the weekly Le Flambeau, was arrested on 13 January 2001 in the morning. That evening police headquarters announced a "preventive measure to suspend the publication, pending administrative and judicial follow-up of this case". The police thus wanted to "guarantee public order, social peace and respect for institutions" after the magazine had published "an article causing confusion regarding state institutions". In its 8 January edition Le Flambeau had published a message of good wishes by the deposed former president, Pascal Lissouba, in which he called on the population to "mobilise to vanquish the dictator" - meaning the incumbent president, Denis Sassou Nguesso. In the same edition the magazine had published details on the composition of the new officers of the party of the former prime minister in exile, Bernard Kolélas. Richard N’Sana was released a few days later.
Pressure and obstruction
Parfait Ogouya, managing editor of L’Observateur, was summoned to the Brazzaville gendarmerie on 19 February 2001. A few days earlier the publication had questioned the credibility of a supreme court judge. The journalist was questioned for a few hours.
On 13 November, Bruno Mienahata and Malonga Bouka, respectively managing editor and editor-in-chief of the weekly Le Coq, were summoned by the Brazzaville gendarmerie. They were accused of publishing a story headed "Corruption is rife among senior officials". Le Coq said that the acting major of the national gendarmerie had accepted bribes from the Chad community in the Congo to release five Chad nationals who had entered the country illegally.