April 13, 2000
President Robert Gueï
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Via Fax: (225) 20 32 90 77
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is outraged by the April 9 kidnapping and torture of Jules Toualy, a reporter with the private daily Le Jeune Democrate, by two soldiers close to the ruling National Public Salvation Committee (CNSP).
Dressed in street clothes but carrying their military identification cards along with pistols and a submachine gun, the two soldiers walked into the newsroom of Le Jeune Democrate at around two p.m. on Sunday, April 9, and asked to speak with Toualy. The journalist was then arrested and driven to the Akouedo military barracks, in a suburb of Abidjan, where he was asked to reveal the sources for an article titled “Mutiny in Daloa: Six Guinean Soldiers Arrested,” which appeared in the April 8 edition of Le Jeune Democrate.
The report alleged that six mercenaries from neighboring Guinea had been arrested for helping to instigate a March 28 mutiny at a military base in the Ivorian town of Daloa, 80 miles northwest of Abidjan, with the goal of overthrowing Your Excellency’s regime. The mutineers were protesting the belated payment of salaries and perks that the CNSP promised them after it seized power on Christmas Eve last year.
Toualy’s captors repeatedly threatened his life when he refused to reveal the confidential sources for his article. He was so severely beaten that he lost consciousness. After thirty minutes he regained consciousness only to be knocked unconscious again by his assailants.
After five hours of torture, Toualy was taken into a cell and asked to identify six inmates as the six Guinean soldiers mentioned in his article. Toualy’s captors apparently believed that these six men were the sources for the article, which they were not, according to CPJ’s sources.
Toualy was then released. He later checked himself into a hospital, where he was treated for severe concussion and other serious injuries.
Toualy’s torture comes three weeks after CPJ wrote to Your Excellency about several serious press freedom violations perpetrated by soldiers. We once again remind you that upon seizing power in December 1999, you promised that freedom of expression would be respected. Since then, however, brutal attacks on journalists and news organizations critical of Your Excellency’s government have become common practice in Côte d’Ivoire.
CPJ condemns this sordid state of affairs and urges Your Excellency to launch an immediate investigation into the kidnapping and torture of Jules Toualy. We urge you to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and that all journalists in your country may seek, receive and impart information without fear of reprisals.
We await your comments on this urgent matter.
Ann K. Cooper