Reporters Without Borders hails Faustin Bambou's release on 23 February following an announcement on the national radio station that he had been pardoned by President François Bozizé. The editor of the privately-owned weekly Les Collines de l'Oubangui, Bambou spent six weeks in prison.
He was sentenced to six months in prison on 28 January on charges of libel, insult and “incitement to revolt” over a 21 December article claiming that two government ministers received seven billion CFA francs (10 million euros) in commissions from the French nuclear energy company Areva.
“Bambou's release is a relief but we remind the authorities that he should never have been imprisoned,” Reporters Without Borders said. “He was the victim of bad faith and legal manoeuvring to circumvent the fact that, under the country's laws, journalists are not supposed to be jailed for press offences.”
The 23 February presidential decree granted Bambou “a complete remission of sentence.” He told Reporters Without Borders he was freed at about 2 p.m. the same day. His lawyers have withdrawn his appeal.
28.01.08 - Newspaper editor sentenced to six months in prison
Reporters Without Borders condemns the six-month prison sentence passed today on Faustin Bambou, the editor of the privately-owned weekly Les Collines de l'Oubangui, on charges of libel, insult and “incitement to revolt” because of an article accusing two ministers of taking kickbacks.
“Bambou is the victim of judicial manoeuvring designed to put him in prison regardless,” the press freedom organisation said. “Circumventing the law to achieve this aim is very worrying for the rule of law and dangerous for the country. This distressing abuse of power by a government that undertook to respect the democratic rules will require an active response on our part.”
Arrested on 11 January, Bambou was sentenced to six months in prison and symbolic damages of one CFA franc for claiming that two government ministers took several billion CFA francs in illegal commissions from the French company Areva. The court ordered Bambou's newspaper to published its verdict. Bambou's lawyers are to appeal.
When the trial opened on 21 January, the state prosecutor requested a two-year sentence and a fine of 3 million CFA francs (4,500 euros). An attempt by Reporters Without Borders to mediate with the state prosecutor was unsuccessful. A promise to modify the charges was not kept.
Bambou is the second journalist to be imprisoned since the law providing for imprisonment for press offences was repealed by the transitional parliament on 25 November 2004. The first was Michel Alkhaly-Ngady, the head of a print media union and editor of the Temps Nouveaux newspaper, who was imprisoned for two months in early 2007.