On 1 April 2003, Chad’s Appeals Court agreed to the provisional
release of two journalists. Following a few administrative formalities,
Nadjikimo Bénoudjita, publication director of the weekly Notre Temps, and
Mbainaye Bétoubam, the newspaper’s deputy editor-in-chief, were allowed to
return to their homes. The substance of the case against the reporters will
be heard at the next hearing, scheduled for 22 April. The defendants will
also be expected to appear in court.
According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, the two journalists’ conditions in detention were particularly harsh. They wrote several articles about prison life from their jail cells in N’Djamena, and were harassed by other detainees and the prison authorities following their publication.
On 6 February, Bénoudjita and Bétoubam were sentenced to six months’
imprisonment and fined two million CFA francs (approx. US$3,300; 3,000
euros) in damages and interest, in N’Djamena. The court also barred the
journalists from exercising their profession for eight months and ordered
their paper closed for three months.
The journalists were sentenced following the filing of a complaint by Hadjé
Billy Douga, director of social affairs with the Ministry of Social Action
and Women, and the president’s mother-in-law. Notre Temps had published an
article alleging that after her jewelry was stolen, Douga had arranged to
have the presumed robbers tortured. One of the robbers reportedly died from
his injuries. The police claimed that the robber died from an incurable
disease. The reporters had told the court that they had drawn their
information from the N’Djamena Appeals Court register.