IFJ Demands Release of Editor Jailed for Libel in Central African Republic

<o:p></o:p>The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the judicial authorities in Central African Republic to overturn a recent decision by a court to sentence newspaper editor Faustin Bambou to six months in jail for inciting public disorder and revolt, defamation and insults connected to an article he wrote accusing two government Ministers of accepting money from a French nuclear company.

The editor’s lawyers lodged an appeal.

“We condemn this sentence, which is an obvious attempt to punish him for embarrassing government officials,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. “We call on the court to drop all the charges against Bambou in the appeal judgment and to release him from jail.”

Bambou was also given a symbolic fine of one Franc CFA to be paid to the ministers in damages and interest. His paper Les Collines de l'Oubangui has been ordered to publish the sentence.

Bambou 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 charges against Bambou were based on the penal code despite the fact that there is a law on freedom of communication that has already decriminalised press offences.

The IFJ has called on the media regulatory body, the High Council of Communication (HCC), to press the government to guarantee press freedom and to either drop the charges or consider the case before Bambou’s peers in the journalism community.

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