IFJ Urges Prosecutor Drop Criminal Defamation Case against Journalist in Central African Republic

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Prosecutor of Bangui in the Central African Republic to withdraw a criminal suit against journalist Faustin Bambou who is facing charges of "inciting to public disorder and to revolt, defamation and insults" stemming from an article he wrote accusing government officials of accepting money from a French nuclear company.

“The indictment clearly shows the intention of the Central African Republic’s government to intimidate journalists in order to prevent them from publishing investigations of financial embezzlement by members of the government and the administration," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office.

Bambou faces a two-year jail sentence and a fine of 3 million of Francs CFA (4,573 Euros) if convicted.

During the trial, which has been broadcast live by the national radio station, Bambou’s lawyers have called for the cancellation of the procedure: the charges against Bambou are based on the penal code whilst there is a law on freedom of communication that have already decriminalised press offences.

The IFJ is calling the media regulatory body, the High Council of Communication (HCC), to press the government to guarantee press freedom and consider the case before Bambou’s peers in the journalism community.

Bambou, editor of the weekly Les Collines de l'Oubangui, was arrested on 11 January and charged three days later in connection with an article published in the newspaper’s December 21, 2007, edition that said Mining Minister Sylvain Ndoutingaï and Foreign Affairs Minister Como Zoumara received seven billion Francs CFA (10.5 millions euros) from the French nuclear company Areva.

The judge will hand down his decision in the trial on Monday, January 28. According to judicial authorities, the article has prolonged the civil servants strike which started on January 2 over arrears of several months of unpaid salaries.

The IFJ’s African regional group, the Federation of African Journalists, has a continent-wide campaign to ban the criminalisation of press offenses in every African country.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 33 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries