RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont, left, and Claude Verlon were found dead in Mali. (AFP/RFI)
RFI journalists Ghislaine Dupont, left, and Claude Verlon were found dead in Mali. (AFP/RFI)

Two RFI journalists abducted, killed in Mali

New York, November 4, 2013–The Committee to Protect Journalists today calls on Malian and French authorities to conduct an efficient investigation into the killings of two French journalists on Saturday and ensure the killers are brought to justice.

Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, both of the French government-funded Radio France Internationale, are the first journalists to be killed in Mali in relation to their work since CPJ started compiling detailed records on journalist deaths in 1992.

“CPJ is shocked and saddened on hearing of the murders of Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon, who both dedicated their lives to informing the world about volatile countries and regions,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “It also pains us to add Mali to our roster of countries where journalists have been killed for doing their work. Malian and French authorities must do their utmost to bring the murderers to justice.”

Gunmen in the town of Kidal kidnapped Dupont, a senior reporter, and Verlon, a sound engineer, as they finished an interview at around 1 p.m. at the home of Ambery Ag Rissa, a leader of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a group of ethnic Tuareg separatists, according to news reports. The security situation in Kidal, a stronghold of the MNLA, has been precarious since a French-led intervention in January 2013 drove out Al-Qaeda-linked militants who had overtaken the Saharan northern half of the country, according to news reports.

French troops are stationed in Mali along with an international force of U.N. peacekeepers mandated to carry out the “protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence,” among other things. In a statement issued on November 3, the U.N. Security Council condemned the murders and called on Malian authorities to ensure the killers are brought to justice.

“The United Nations should support the investigations in line with its mandate to protect civilians and its new plan for the safety and protection of journalists,” CPJ’s Keita said.

Dupont and Verlon were on their second assignment in Kidal since reporting on the first round of Mali’s presidential election in July, according to news reports.

Dupont, 57, covered African affairs for RFI for over 25 years, RFI reported. She covered the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as civil wars in Angola, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where she was expelled n 2006 in retaliation for her reporting. Dupont was affectionately called “Gigi” by her colleagues and had been promoted to the station’s editorial board in September, according to RFI.

A veteran technician, Verlon, 55, joined RFI in 1982 and had traveled with news crews in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, and around Africa, according to RFI. He was known for his technical prowess.

In a press conference on Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the bodies of the journalists were found next to their vehicle outside the town. Fabius blamed the murder on Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists. “A crime against journalists is a double crime–it’s a crime against people who were coldly assassinated in odious circumstances, but it’s also a crime against the freedom to be informed and to inform,” Fabius said.

Official investigations were under way in France and Mali and several suspects have been arrested, RFI reported.