On 6 February 2003, Nadjikimo Bénoudjita, editor
of the weekly Notre Temps, and Mbainaye Bétoubam, the newspaper’s deputy
editor-in-chief, were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and fined two
million CFA francs (over 3,000 euros) in damages, in N’Djamena. The court also barred them from working as journalists for eight months and ordered their paper closed for three months.
In a letter to President Idriss Déby, Reporters Without Borders asked that the verdict be annulled on appeal. "This decision is deplorable. It is unacceptable that these two journalists should be imprisoned, regardless of the incriminating article’s content," stated Robert Ménard, the organisation’s secretary-general.
In its letter, Reporters Without Borders recalled that according to a United Nations document, "as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion, a prison sentence constitutes a serious human rights violation."
Legal action was launched against the journalists after a complaint was
filed by Hadjé Billy Douga, director of social affairs with the Ministry of
Social Action and Women, and President Déby’s mother-in-law. Notre Temps
had published an article alleging that after her jewelry was stolen, Douga
had gotten her vengeance by having the presumed robbers tortured. One of the
robbers reportedly died from his injuries. The police claim that the robber
died from an incurable disease. The reporters told the court that they had
drawn their information from the N’Djamena Appeals Court register.
Bétoubam was unable to attend his trial because of illness. Police officers
picked him up at his home after the verdict was announced and took him to
the N’Djamena prison.