Reporters Without Borders condemns the six-month prison sentence
passed today on Faustin Bambou, the editor of the privately-owned
weekly Les Collines de l’Oubangui, on charges of libel, insult and
“incitement to revolt” because of an article accusing two ministers of
“Bambou is the victim of judicial manoeuvring designed to put him
in prison regardless,” the press freedom organisation said.
“Circumventing the law to achieve this aim is very worrying for the
rule of law and dangerous for the country. This distressing abuse of
power by a government that undertook to respect the democratic rules
will require an active response on our part.”
Arrested on 11
January, Bambou was sentenced to six months in prison and symbolic
damages of one CFA franc for claiming that two government ministers
took several billion CFA francs in illegal commissions from the French
company Areva. The court ordered Bambou’s newspaper to published its
verdict. Bambou’s lawyers are to appeal.
When the trial opened
on 21 January, the state prosecutor requested a two-year sentence and a
fine of 3 million CFA francs (4,500 euros). An attempt by Reporters
Without Borders to mediate with the state prosecutor was unsuccessful.
A promise to modify the charges was not kept.
Bambou is the
second journalist to be imprisoned since the law providing for
imprisonment for press offences was repealed by the transitional
parliament on 25 November 2004. The first was Michel Alkhaly-Ngady,
the head of a print media union and editor of the Temps Nouveaux
newspaper, who was imprisoned for two months in early 2007.