(RSF/IFEX) - On 1 April 2003, Chad's Appeals Court agreed to the provisional release of two journalists. Following a few administrative formalities, Nadjikimo Bénoudjita, publication director of the weekly "Notre Temps", and Mbainaye Bétoubam, the newspaper's deputy editor-in-chief, were allowed to return to their homes. The substance of the case against the reporters will be heard at the next hearing, scheduled for 22 April. The defendants will also be expected to appear in court.
According to information collected by RSF, the two journalists' conditions in detention were particularly harsh. They wrote several articles about prison life from their jail cells in N'Djamena, and were harassed by other detainees and the prison authorities following their publication.
On 6 February, Bénoudjita and Bétoubam were sentenced to six months' imprisonment and fined two million CFA francs (approx. US$3,300; 3,000 euros) in damages and interest, in N'Djamena. The court also barred the journalists from exercising their profession for eight months and ordered their paper closed for three months.
The journalists were sentenced following the filing of a complaint by Hadjé Billy Douga, director of social affairs with the Ministry of Social Action and Women, and the president's mother-in-law. "Notre Temps" had published an article alleging that after her jewelry was stolen, Douga had arranged to have the presumed robbers tortured. One of the robbers reportedly died from his injuries. The police claimed that the robber died from an incurable disease. The reporters had told the court that they had drawn their information from the N'Djamena Appeals Court register.