- Within a few weeks, two editors in the Central African Republic have been detained over their editorial profile. Media watchdogs are concerned the putschist regime of General François Bozizé is heading towards a general oppression of the country's independent press.
On 11 July, police officers arrested Ferdinand Samba, publication director of the daily 'Le Démocrate', based in Bangui, the Central African capital, according to information received by the Kinshasa-based group Journaliste en danger (JED).
Mr Samba was arrested at the headquarters of the Central African Republic Private and Independent Press Publishers' Association (Groupement des éditeurs de la presse privée et indépendante de Centrafrique, GEPPIC). Mr Samba is being held at the police station in Bangui's port.
The editor had published an article in his newspaper entitled, "Kaga Bandoro, the Popular Liberation Front attacks". The article reported on violent acts committed by rampaging soldiers in the area near Kaga Bandoro, a city located 300 kilometres north of Bangui.
Mr Samba is the second journalist arrested in the Central African Republic over the past months. Michel Ngokpele, publication director of 'Le quotidien de Bangui"' newspaper, was arrested on 18 May.
Mr Ngokpele was first detained at the Bangui police station before being transferred to M'Baiki prison. On 26 June, a court in La Lobaye, a city located 105 kilometres from Bangui, sentenced him to six months' imprisonment with no parole for "defamation by means of the press" and "incitement to ethnic hatred".
In mid-May, 'Le quotidien de Bangui' had published an article about the misappropriation of funds at La Lobaye's M'Baiki hospital. Among other things, the article said, "Since the arrival of the new head doctor, there are more deaths at the hospital than previously." The article also said, "The new doctor appears to be protected by the chief of police and state prosecutor, to whom he happens to be related."
The fragile situation of the press in the Central African Republic first seemed to be improving after the military coup by General Bozizé earlier this year. The general promised the international community to adhere to universal human rights.
As a gesture of good intentions, Mathurin Momet, editor of the privately-owned Bangui daily 'Le Confident', was released along with a number of other detainees on 15 March following the coup d'état.
With the detention of Mr Samba and the imprisonment of Mr Ngokpele, a new picture however seems to appear in the Central African Republic. During the years of civilian rule, the country had enjoyed a relatively free press situation, which now seems to be heavily infringed on by the new military rulers.
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