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Four newspaper editors join reporter and school teacher in jail over school essay making fun of imaginary president

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the release of a secondary school teacher and a total of five journalists who have been arrested over an article about a school essay on the comical indiscretions of an imaginary president.

eThe teacher and an "Info-Matin" reporter were arrested on 14 June 2007. "Info-Matin's" editor and the editors of three other newspapers were arrested on 20 June for reprinting the article, which Reporters Without Borders is posting on its website to show the absurdity of these arrests.

"Mali was hailed as an example of democracy in Africa, but as this case goes from bad to worse, it is looking more and more like an authoritarian regime, crippled by taboos and dangerous for those who show a lack of respect for an untouchable president," the press freedom organisation said.

"We are dismayed by the way the state prosecutor is flouting democratic standards and the presumption of innocence by imprisoning journalists," Reporters Without Borders added. "President Amadou Toumani Touré's silence on this matter is baffling."

The four newspaper editors - Sambi Touré of "Info-Matin", Ibrahima Fall of "Le Républicain," Alexis Kalambry of "Les Echos" and Haméye Cissé of "Le Scorpion" - were summoned late on 20 June 2007 by the state prosecutor and were immediately jailed on charges of "complicity in an insult against the president."

They were sent to the main Bamako prison, where they joined "Info-Matin" reporter Seydina Oumar Diarra and Lycée Nanaïssa Santara literature teacher Bassirou Kassim Minta.

Diarra and Minta were arrested by the state prosecutor on 14 June because of a 1 June article by Diarra, headlined "Lycée Nanaïssa Santara: the president's mistress," about a humorous essay subject that Minta gave his final-year literature students - the story of a "female student and economic prostitute" who became pregnant by a fictitious president and fought for her child to be recognised.

The five journalists and the teacher are due to appear before a Bamako criminal court on 26 June.

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