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Judge fines and releases two journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - 11 July 2011 - Reporters Without Borders hails today's decision by Bangui judge Jules Gaveaux to release news media editors Faustin Bambou and Emmanuel Cyrus Sandy after dismissing criminal charges of "inciting violence and hatred" in a case involving defence minister Jean-Francis Bozizé.

The judge did however fine them 300,000 CFA francs (458 euros) on a lesser charge of libelling the minister.

In a phone call after his release, Bambou thanked Reporters Without Borders and the international community.

"We felt the effect of the strong campaign on our behalf by international organizations, Reporters Without Borders, foreign ministries, the UN and local journalists," Bambou said. "The pressure and media coverage got the judge to change course and to charge us under the February 2005 Freedom of Communication Law, which is what we had been calling for from the outset."

Bambou added: "Our release is a happy outcome that we welcome with joy. Nonetheless, a libel conviction is not insignificant. It poses a serious setback to freedom and democracy. We will appeal against it."

Reporters Without Borders joins local journalists in calling for their conviction to be overturned.

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