Chad: Court Rejects Newspaper Publisher's Release Request

press release

Reporters Without Borders deplores yesterday's court decision to reject newspaper publisher Moussaye Avenir de la Tchiré's provisional release request, dashing any hopes raised by the release of two fellow journalists, Eric Topona and Jean Laokolé, earlier this week.

The prosecutor requested a sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 1 million CFA francs (1,500 euros) for De La Tchiré on charges of inciting hatred and inciting a popular uprising. The court postponed a verdict until 29 August.

"The refusal of the release request is very bad news for De La Tchiré, who will soon complete his fourth month in detention," Reporters Without Borders said. "The two-year sentence requested by the prosecutor, although the minimum for this charge, is absurd and disproportionate.

"The judge must reject the proposed sentence, which would deal a major blow to freedom of information in Chad if passed on this journalist. And De La Tchiré should be freed at once, before any further judicial proceedings."

De La Tchiré is treasurer of the Union of Chadian Journalists and publishes the newspaper Abba Garde.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the suspended sentence of three years in prison that a N'Djamena court passed yesterday on the writer and blogger Jean Etienne Laokolé and Union of Chadian Journalists general secretary Eric Topona, who used to work for the national radio broadcaster.

The court convicted them on charges of defamation and "abortive conspiracy against public order." These were less serious than the original charges, which included conspiring to overthrow the government.

"Laokolé and Topona, who have been held for more than 100 days, are innocent and should be released immediately and unconditionally along with fellow journalist Moussaye Avenir de la Tchiré, who is still awaiting trial," Reporters Without Borders said.

"This sentence, which shows how the Chadian authorities persecute independent news providers, is a serious threat to freedom of expression and information in Chad."

De La Tchiré, who is treasurer of the Union of Chadian Journalists and publishes the newspaper Abba Garde, is still being held at Amsinene military camp in N'Djamena. Arrested on 7 May, he is facing trial on charges of inciting hatred and inciting a popular uprising.

The lawyers who represent Laokolé and Topona told Reporters Without Borders they will appeal against yesterday's verdict.

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