Cybèle Athangba was attacked by police at a protest. (Cybèle Athangba)
Cybèle Athangba was attacked by police at a protest. (Cybèle Athangba)

Journalist assaulted by police in Ivory Coast

New York, June 12, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Ivorian police’s assault on a journalist on June 5 and calls on authorities to ensure the officers are brought to justice.

Two officers attacked Cybèle Athangba, a reporter with the daily La Nouvelle, while she was covering a protest of about 100 police officers in front of the police headquarters in the economic capital, Abidjan, according to local journalists and news reports. Athangba was among three journalists who were interviewing officers protesting the alleged embezzlement of funds that had been deducted from their salaries since 2006 to pay for their housing.

Athangba told CPJ that an officer talking to the protesters attacked her after noticing she was using a voice recorder to record the conversation. As she tried to resist the attack, another officer grabbed her from behind and tore the collar of her dress, she said. Her voice recorder was also seized during the struggle, but it was later retrieved by protesters, she said.

CPJ contacted Gerard Gnawa, the police spokesman, for comment, but the officer laughed, said the police were looking into the case, and hung up the phone. He has not answered subsequent calls.

“We condemn this attack on Cybèle Athangba and call on Ivorian authorities to take all necessary steps to bring the officers to account,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Attacks on journalists are no laughing matter.”

Local press freedom group the Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CIPJ) released a statement identifying one of Athangba’s attackers as Jacques Amouchié Kadjané, a police lieutenant colonel in charge of the police’s vehicle unit. When CPJ contacted Kadjané, the officer declined to comment and asked instead how CPJ got his phone number. “I don’t have to explain myself. It is not my function to talk to journalists,” he said.

In a meeting today with the Ivorian Committee, Gen. Brindou M`Bia, the director general of the Ivorian national police, formally apologized to the journalist and said she had been mistaken for a spy for the police protesters, CIPJ Secretary-General Stephane Goué told CPJ. M’Bia allegedly urged a reconciliation meeting between Athangba and Kadjané, according to Goué.