RSF regards the sentence imposed by the court – which also included an exorbitant fine of 3,140 euros and damages of 31,400 euros, to be paid jointly by him and his co-defendant, Abderamane Boukar Koyon, the editor of the satirical newspaper Le Moustik – as iniquitous and politically motivated.
The court did not pass any prison sentence on Koyon, who like Inoua, had been detained since 16 August on a charge of defamation, although defamation is only punishable by imprisonment in Chad in cases of incitement of hatred of violence.
Both journalists were finally convicted on the new charge of “association for the purpose of computer crime” as well as "false accusations".
The case was the result of a defamation suit by former health minister Toupta Boguéna in connection with their coverage of the sexual assault charges brought against her by her niece. Their lawyers say they intend to appeal.
“After Martin Inoua was detained provisionally for defamation, which is not punishable by imprisonment, and after the charges were changed in mid-trial with the sole aim of imposing a heavier punishment, this extremely harsh sentence suggests a political motivation,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “It is hard not to see this as an orchestrated reprisal against a journalist critical of the government. We call on the Chadian authorities to free him without delay.”
RSF has also learned that Inoua was assaulted on Sunday evening in N’Djamena’s Amsinéné prison although it has not yet been possible to establish the circumstances of the attack. Several witnesses said one of his eyes was very swollen when he appeared in court yesterday morning.
Inoua is known for criticizing corruption in his articles and the authorities often target his quarterly. The regulatory authorities suspended it for three months in July for “breaches of ethics and professionalism.”
Press freedom violations are common in Chad. It holds sub-Saharan Africa’s record for restricting access to social networks, which were blocked in March 2018 and were restored just two months ago by President Idriss Déby Itno.
Chad is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.