The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the Central African Republic’s attack on editor and media activist Michel Alkhaly Ngady, who has been charged with “obstruction to the law and the institutions of the Republic” in retaliation for his criticism of the country’s media regulatory body.
Ngady, President of the Association of Private Independent Press Editors of Central Africa (GEPPIC), has been fighting the Central African Republic’s High Council of Communication (HCC), since the media regulator named new members who did not meet its own standards for oversight. On March 26, the prosecutor of Bangui charged Ngady with “obstruction to the law and the institutions of the Republic” and requested the court sentence him to two years in jail. Ngady has been imprisoned for 16 days.
“We call on the court of Bangui to discharge Michel Alkhaly Ngady and drop the charges against him, which we believe are invalid and without merit,” said Gabriel Baglo, director of the IFJ Africa office. “This intimidation by the HCC is the worst way for it to establish its authority.”
Last January, the GEPPIC, the Association of the Journalists of Central African Republic and the Observatory of the Central African Media denounced the appointment of several new members to the HCC. The journalists’ groups said the new members, including two nominated by President François Bozize, did not meet the criteria defined by the law that all appointees must meet.
Since then, the three organizations have refused to recognize the HCC’s authority or to obey its decisions. Ngady has been leading the public criticism against the regulatory body.
In early March, Ngady, published a statement on behalf of the GEPPIC declaring HCC’s decision to ban for one month the publication of the weekly newspaper Le Centrafriqu'Un to be “null and of no effect”. According to the Agence Centrafrique Presse news agency, HCC imposed the one-month ban after the newspaper published an article entitled “Chadians Boast of Killing with Impunity”. The regulator said that the article was “dangerous.”
The court rejected again on Monday, a request by Ngady’s lawyers that he be released on bail.
“Jailing Michel serves no purpose other than to intimidate him and his colleagues,” the IFJ’s Baglo added.
The court will decide Ngady’s case on April 2.
For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 115 countries