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Press Freedom Day presidential pardon for jailed newspaper editor

(RSF/IFEX) - 4 May 2012 - President François Bozizé marked World Press Freedom Day yesterday by pardoning and releasing Ferdinand Samba, the editor of the daily Le Démocrate, who had been held for more than three months on a charge of libelling the finance minister.

The pardon came after the Union of Central African Journalists announced they would refrain from commemorating World Press Freedom Day in protest against the detention of Samba, who was sentenced on 26 January to 10 months in prison and a fine of 1 million CFA francs (1,500 euros).

“We hail this gesture by President Bozizé in response to calls from journalists,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After enduring trying prison conditions for three months, Samba can finally enjoy freedom again, spend time with his family and resume working. He would not have been jailed if the authorities had respected the 2005 law decriminalizing media offences, which require proportionate penalties.”

“We now call on the president to take the next logical step and lift the one-year publication ban that was imposed on Le Démocrate. Coming at what is a difficult time economically for the press, this ban could asphyxiate the newspaper and force it to close permanently, depriving the public of a source of news and information.”

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