Journalist missing in rebel zone for more than a month

New York, October 4, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned by reports that a correspondent for the private daily L’Inter has gone missing from the rebel-held town of Bouake after receiving threats from rebels. Amadou Dagnogo was last seen on August 28 by a neighbor, according to L’Inter Editor Charles d’Almeida.

Before disappearing, Dagnogo told his editor he received threats from rebels loyal to Guillaume Soro, leader of the Forces Nouvelles (FN) that control Bouake. Dagnogo wrote articles about a split in the rebel movement and alleged atrocities by Soro’s men.

Fighting broke out in June in the northern town of Korhogo between Soro’s forces and those loyal to rival rebel commander, Ibrahim Coulibaly. Some local sources say L’Inter is seen as sympathetic to Coulibaly, and frequently publishes stories from his Web site.

D’Almeida said Dagnogo was summoned to FN headquarters in early July, accused of writing falsehoods and told to start writing the “truth” if he valued his security. Dagnogo told his editor he had escaped an ambush later that month, when rebel elements tried to capture him. FN officials denied threatening the journalist.

But in an August 28 letter, FN spokesman Antoine Beugré accused the newspaper of publishing “false information, to the detriment of the security of your correspondents in Bouake and Korhogo,” according to d’Almeida.

While some local sources initially thought Dagnogo may have fled to neighboring Mali, a number now believe he was taken by rebels in the Bouake region. D’Almeida told CPJ that L’Inter received an anonymous telephone call on September 9 threatening to execute the newspaper’s Bouake correspondent if it did not retract a story alleging that Soro’s forces had attacked the Central Bank of West Africa in Bouake to steal money.

Rebels still hold the northern region. Soro, the communications minister, was among the rebel and opposition ministers who rejoined the national government in August after walking out earlier. The power-sharing government follows a fragile 2003 peace deal.

Dagnogo is the second journalist to go missing in Ivory Coast this year; freelance journalist Guy-André Kieffer disappeared in the administrative capital, Abidjan, in April. Two journalists were killed in Ivory Coast last year.

“We are gravely concerned about the disappearance of Amadou Dagnogo and call on those holding our colleague to release him immediately and unharmed,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said.