Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the one-year prison sentence and fine of 100,000 CFA francs (about 152 euros) imposed yesterday by a magistrate's court in N'Djamena on Sy Koumbo Singa Gali, the editor of the L'Observateur newspaper. She is the fourth journalist to receive a jail term in Chad this year.
"We learn of Sy Koumbo's sentence with sadness and anger," the press freedom organisation said. "The international community has reacted with indifference to this crackdown by President Idriss Déby's government. France, in particular, which proclaims its support for free expression, should wake up to the scandal this fourth prison sentence represents and should use all its weight to obtain the release of the four journalists as soon as possible."
Sy Koumbo was convicted for a 13 July interview with imprisoned independent journalist Garondé Djarma, who was already serving a three-year prison term. In the interview, Garondé attributed his arrested to a "Janjaweed plot," using the term "Janjaweed" to refer to Chadian Arabs of the CDR party.
As a result of these remarks, Garondé yesterday received an additional sentence of one year in prison and a fine of 100,000 CFA francs for "defamation" and "inciting hate." He was given the three-year sentence on 18 July.
Many Chadian journalists demonstrated support for Sy Koumbo yesterday and accompanied her during her transfer to prison. The Union of Chadian Journalists (UJT), to which most state and private-sector journalists belong, yesterday called for a one-week strike from 22 August.
In addition to Sy Koumbo and Garondé, the other Chadian journalists currently serving prison sentences are Samory Ngaradoumbé and Michael Didama.
08. 08. 05 A third journalist is jailed while a fourth awaits sentencing
Reporters Without Borders condemned the "constant harassment" of Chad's independent journalists after Le Temps editor Michael Didama was sentenced today to six months in prison and the trial began of L'Observateur editor Sy Koumbo Singa Gali.
Didama, who was immediately detained at the end of his trial, is the third journalist to be imprisoned in Chad this year.
"We are horrified to see journalists who displease the regime being taken off to prison one by one," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although the government claims to defend public order, it is responsible for a serious decline in press freedom and President Idriss Déby should realise he has put Chad on a dangerous course by cracking down on the press."
The organisation added: "The imprisoned journalists must be freed and the ongoing prosecutions must be dropped in order to assuage the problems destabilising the country."
Didama was given a six-month jail term and a fine of 200,000 CFA francs (about 305 euros) after being convicted of libel, "mendacious reports" and "incitement to tribal hate" for publishing a report about an active rebel movement in the east of the country and photos taken from the website of Al Whida, the armed opposition's newspaper.
He was initially arrested on 22 June but was released on a technicality on 11 July. The government thereafter initiated a new prosecution against him when he appeared in court on 18 July.
L'Observateur's editor, Sy Koumbo, appeared before a court in N'Djamena today over an interview she published on 13 July with imprisoned independent journalist Garondé Djarma. In the interview, Garondé attributed his arrested to a "Janjaweed plot," using the term "Janjaweed" to refer to Chadian Arabs of the CDR party. Verdict and sentencing in Sy Koumbo's trial is due on 15 August.
Garondé, who writes columns for the L'Observateur newspaper, was sentenced to three years in prison on 18 July. Samory Ngaradoumbé, L'Observateur's coordinator, was sentenced the same day to three month's in prison.