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Guinean journalist assaulted by police, no arrests made

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Reporter Kounkou Mara, after being assaulted by police officers. (Courtesy Kounkou Mara)

New York, March 8, 2012--Guinean authorities must investigate and bring appropriate charges against police officers who assaulted a journalist at the Central Bank of Guinea, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Reporter Kounkou Mara suffered head and other injuries in the attack.

Mara, a reporter for the privately owned Le Lynx, was denied entry to the Central Bank of Guinea on February 27 despite presenting her press identity card to officers and saying she was scheduled to interview the bank's governor, according to news reports. Officials told her she posed a security threat to the bank employees, then a commanding officer ordered her to be ejected, the journalist told a local newspaper.

Mara told CPJ that the officials pushed her and shoved her outside. She said she hit her head on a parked car and suffered multiple bruises on her body and had to go to the hospital for treatment. Mara also said she lost her press card during the struggle.

The journalist said four officers had assaulted her, but this was disputed by the Guinean Minister of Information Dirus Doré, who told CPJ that only two officers had assaulted the journalist. Doré also said that although the gendarmerie would be responsible for disciplining the officers, they were now forbidden from guarding the bank. When CPJ sought comment from the head of the Guinean Gendarmerie, General Ibrahima Baldé, calls and text messages were not returned.

Despite the attack occurring more than a week ago, there have been no arrests or charges, although Central Bank Governor Lounsény Nabé publicly apologized to the journalist, according to news reports.

"What happened to Kounkou Mara constitutes an assault, and authorities have an obligation to conduct a criminal investigation and bring appropriate charges," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. "Guinea's new democratically elected government has an opportunity to turn the page on years of abuse and impunity in security forces' attacks on journalists."

Petitions from Mara's employer, the Lynx-Lance Media Group, as well as a women's rights media group, have been filed before Guinea's National Council on Communication. The council's president, Martine Condé, told CPJ that redress had been sought from the police on Mara's behalf. "We are on the right path. In the coming days, you will know of the redress which has been obtained," Condé said.

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