See also:
» 23.04.2013 - Central African Republic falling apart
» 19.10.2010 - Trial against Congolese ex-VP confirmed
» 14.01.2010 - CAR's president blocking peace process - ICG
» 28.01.2009 - Newspaper stands empty as publishers show solidarity to suspended paper
» 02.04.2007 - Prison term for Central African media chief
» 26.02.2004 - Another Central African journalist imprisoned
» 10.09.2003 - Less press freedom in Central African Republic
» 15.07.2003 - Second Central African editor detained

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Central African Republic
Human rights | Media

Central African editor imprisoned over article

afrol News, 7 July - A publication director in the Central African Republic has been sentenced to six months' imprisonment for publishing an investigative article about possible corruption in the village hospital of La Lobaye.

On 26 June, a court in La Lobaye - a town located 105 kilometres from the Central African capital Bangui - sentenced Michel Ngokpele, publication director of the Bangui-based newspaper 'Le quotidien de Bangui', to six months' imprisonment with no parole for "defamation by means of the press" and "incitement to ethnic hatred".

According to information received by the Kinshasa-based group Journaliste en danger (JED), 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 published by Mr Ngokpele said: "Since the arrival of the new head doctor, there are more deaths at the hospital than previously." The disputed article further read: "The new doctor appears to be protected by the chief of police and state prosecutor, to whom he happens to be related."

Mr Ngokpele was arrested on 18 May, JED says. He had first been detained at the Bangui police station before being transferred to M'Baiki prison.

The journalist then appeared before the M'Baiki High Court on 19 June. The prosecution had sought a three-month prison sentence and 250,000 franc CFA (approximately 250 euros) fine. He was later sentenced to six months' imprisonment.

The fragile situation of the press in the Central African Republic first seemed to be improving after the military coup by General François 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.

The trial against Mr Ngokpele and his subsequent prison sentence is therefore the first major incident violating press freedom under the new military regime in Bangui.

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