Journalist detained, harrassed by security forces

APRIL 20, 2006

Antoine Bationo, Le Pays
Boureïma Jeremie Sigue, Le Pays


Security forces detained and questioned Antoine Bationo, a sports journalist for the private daily Le Pays, after he interviewed former soldiers accused of mounting a coup attempt, local sources told CPJ.

According to Martin Yamongbé, editor-in-chief of Le Pays, heavily armed paramilitary police known as gendarmes raided the offices of Le Pays while Bationo was conducting the interview. The former soldiers, who were imprisoned in 2004 for their alleged involvement in a coup attempt but later amnestied, had arrived at the newspaper’s offices seeking media coverage, Yamongbé told CPJ. They claimed they had a person who had been trailing them and that this was proof that they were the targets of government surveillance, Yamongbé told CPJ.

The gendarmes re-arrested the former soldiers in the raid and confiscated a recording device, the newspaper’s editor said. They also issued a summons to Bationo, accusing him of “abducting” one of their colleagues. When Bationo reported for his summons the same day, he was kept in custody for more than 11 hours and released only after his newspaper and local media organizations pressured the government, according to Yamongbé.

The gendarmerie also summoned Publication Director Boureïma Jeremie Sigue, questioning him for several hours, Yamogbé said. Both journalists denied any involvement in the purported abduction, saying the journalist was merely interviewing the soldiers. No charges were brought against either journalist, but the seized recorder was not immediately returned.

Local media organizations condemned the harassment in a statement issued on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.