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Privately-owned weekly's survival threatened following heavy fine

(RSF/IFEX) - In a 9 December 2004 hearing, the weekly "Regar" was heavily fined for ignoring a Supreme Court order that it not publish a letter by three judges.

RSF denounced the fine as excessive, while noting that it may "wipe out the Seychelles' only independent newspaper." The organisation said it was "absurd" that the fine was decided by judges who were involved in the case against "Regar". RSF also said it was a "complete aberration" that one of the same judges would also hear the newspaper's appeal against the fine, which was set at 40,000 rupees (approx. US$7,400; 5,600 euros).

"The only fair solution is for judicial authorities to abandon their prosecution of 'Regar' and allow the only opposition newspaper do its work in peace," RSF said. "We call on all of the Seychelles' political and economic partners to use their influence to calm things down."

On 27 October, "Regar" received a Supreme Court injunction ordering the paper not to publish "in whole or in part" an internal letter written by three Supreme Court judges complaining about a court registrar's insubordination. The order, signed by Judge Bernardin Renaud, one of the letter's three signatories, said publication of the letter would prejudice the functioning of the judicial system.

"Regar" editor Roger Mancienne refused to comply with the order, as he considered the letter to be "valid, relevant and of public interest." The weekly published the letter the following day, alongside the Supreme Court order and a chronology of the case. "Regar" also pointed out that the letter confirmed the criticism its journalists had already made about the court registrar concerned. As a result, Mancienne was found in contempt of court.

This is not the first time that "Regar" has been prosecuted or come into conflict with authorities. It is "one of the most influential news outlets in a country with mostly spineless media," RSF said. The state press only relays official statements and carries no criticism of the government.

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