- Another Central African journalist has been imprisoned. Judes Zossé, director of the private daily 'L'Hirondelle', and his brother were arrested by Bangui police after the newspaper had reprinted an article written by a Paris-based opposition media.
Yesterday, police officers arrested Mr Zossé, who had turned himself in after police had detained his brother, Didier Zossé. Didier Zossé, who is in charge of printing the newspaper, was later released without charge. Today, Judes Zossé was transferred from the police station to the central prison in the capital, Bangui.
According to information gathered by the Now York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Judes Zossé's arrest stemmed from an article that was reproduced in 'L'Hirondelle' on Monday, 23 February, titled "General Bozizé: the State's Tax-collector."
The article, which originally ran on the news Web site Centrafrique-presse.com alleged that General Bozizé, who declared himself President after a March 2003 coup d'état, has personally taken over the collection of state tax revenue in the Central African Republic, prompting two senior Treasury officials to contemplate resignation.
Centrafrique-presse.com is a France-based opposition web site, run by former President Ange-Félix Patassé's spokesperson, Prosper N'Douba. Mr Patassé was the last democratically elected President in the Central African Republic and still refuses to recognise the power of General Bozizé.
According to sources in Bangui, Central African authorities have accused editor Zossé of "insulting the head of state." It is unclear whether he has been formally charged, CPJ said in a statement released today. The media watchdog today said it was "deeply concerned" about Mr Zossé's imprisonment.
- Arresting and imprisoning a journalist sends a worrying signal to the Central African Republic's press, said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper in the statement. "We call on the authorities in the Central African Republic to release Judes Zossé immediately and unconditionally."
Since the rebellion and coup of General Bozizé, press freedom has been severely restricted in the country, despite the General's promises to prepare for national reconciliation and a return to democracy. Several Central African editors and journalists have been imprisoned following libel accusations and the country's press has enhanced its self-censorship.
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