- A photographer with 'Le Patriote', a daily that is close to the opposition, and two other journalists were recently assaulted by members of Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo's presidential guard. Attacks on the press in Côte d'Ivoire have increased during the last year.
On 31 January, 'Le Patriote' photographer Ibrahim Diarra was beaten up by presidential guardsmen in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro, during a foundation stone-laying ceremony held at the future location of the presidential residence.
Mr Diarra was taking photographs of security agents when they stopped him and asked him who his employer was. They then combed through the journalist's personal documents and found a letter written by him in which he mentioned an incident that took place when he covered a press conference of the Ivorian Patriotic Movement (Mouvement Patriotique de Côte d'Ivoire, MPCI, a former rebel group).
The soldiers then accused Mr Diarra of being an assailant and beat him up. MPCI however is now a part of the Forces Nouvelles ex-rebel coalition, which forms part of the Ivorian unity government of national reconciliation.
Charles Sanga, another 'Le Patriote' reporter and Frank Konaté, of the daily '24 Heures' reportedly also were beaten up after they came to their colleague's defence. Mr Diarra was treated for injuries to his head and genitals at the Treichville (Abidjan) University hospital.
The reported assault today caused international press freedom groups to protest. "It is unacceptable that members of the President's security service can, with total impunity, attack a journalist who is covering an official event," said the Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières in a statement today.
- The head of state must punish these officers and keep his troops in line, demanded RSF. "Such actions reinforce the climate of insecurity that surrounds the work of journalists in Côte d'Ivoire," the media watchdog group added.
Only two weeks ago, on 16 January, two journalists from 'Le Courrier d'Abidjan' newspaper had been assaulted by an Ivorian government Minister.
Minister of Technical and Vocational Training, Youssouf Soumahoro, reportedly physically assaulted the two journalists, who were covering a demonstration by higher education students, overrunning Mr Soumahoro's offices.
According to information gathered by RSF, the journalists were held against their will for about 20 minutes and the Minister reportedly grabbed one of the journalist's dictaphone, brutally twisting her wrist in the process. A digital camera was also reportedly confiscated.
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