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How CPJ investigates and classifies attacks on the press

JANUARY 16, 2004

Danielle Sylvie Tagro, Le Courrier d'Abidjan
Thierry Gouégnon, Le Courrier d'Abidjan


Tagro, a reporter who covers education for the private daily Le Courrier d'Abidjan, and Gouégnon, a photographer for the paper, were harassed when they attempted to cover a demonstration in which members of a student's union stormed the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training.

When Tagro and Gouégnon arrived at the ministry, both journalists showed their press cards to guards there. Tagro then approached Minister of Technical and Vocational Training Youssouf Soumahoro with a tape recorder and asked for an interview. According to local sources, Soumahoro grabbed Tagro's hand, which was holding the recorder, and twisted her arm until bystanders intervened and forced him to let go. The newspaper's publication director, Sylvestre Konin, told CPJ that Tagro suffered wrist pains for several days following the incident.

Two ministry guards then brought the journalists into a room and confiscated Tagro's tape recorder and Gouégnon's digital camera. After, the journalists were forced to leave the premises. According to Konin, Soumahoro has denied any knowledge of the equipment's whereabouts.

Soumahoro, a minister in Ivory Coast's government of national reconciliation, is a member of the New Forces, a former rebel movement. The New Forces agreed to join the government in 2003.

JANUARY 31, 2004
Posted: February 6, 2004

Ibrahim Diarra, Le Patriote

Charles Sanga, Le Patriote
Frank Konaté, 24 Heures


Members of President Laurent Gbagbo's presidential guard attacked Diarra, Sanga, and Konaté at a ceremony celebrating the laying of the first foundation stone for the future presidential residence in Yamoussoukro, the political capital of Ivory Coast.

Diarra, a photographer for the private Abidjan-based daily Le Patriote, was taking pictures of guards when they approached him and asked him to hand over his digital camera. After viewing the pictures Diarra had taken, they removed the camera's memory card and damaged the camera. They then searched the journalist's belongings.

According to Méité Sindou, editorial director at the newspaper, the guards found a copy of a letter sent by editors at Le Patriote to government officials, denouncing the previous confiscation of Diarra's camera at a protest march calling for national reconciliation. The letter mentioned the Ivory Coast Popular Movement (MPCI), a former rebel group who agreed to a power-sharing deal with the government in 2003.

After they found the letter, the guards accused Diarra of being sympathetic to the MPCI and beat the journalist, causing injuries to his abdomen, back, and neck, Sindou said. When Sanga, Le Patriote's chief political reporter, and Konaté, a reporter for the private, Abidjan-based daily 24 Heures, tried to intervene, the guards assaulted them as well. Diarra spent several days in the hospital following the attack.

The assault was condemned by Ivory Coast's Ministry of Human Rights, several local news media, and visiting U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression Ambeyi Ligabo, according to articles in Le Patriote.

MARCH 9, 2004
Posted: April 5. 2004

François Gombahi, Le Jour Plus
Marc–Antoine Kablan, 24 Heures

Gombahi, journalist for the private daily Le Jour Plus, and Kablan, photographer for the private daily 24 Heures, were attacked by members of the Ivory Coast Student's Union (FESCI) and "Young Patriots," a youth group close to the ruling Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI), in Abidjan's main courthouse.

The journalists had gone to the courthouse to cover the appointment of two senior judges by Justice Minister Henriette Dagry Diabate, the deputy leader of the opposition Rally of Republicans and a member of the power–sharing government established under the January 2003 Marcoussis peace accords.

The pro–FPI youth groups, who claimed that the judges being appointed were biased in favor of the opposition, gathered outside the courthouse in protest. Eventually, hundreds of angry demonstrators stormed the building and attacked several judges, seriously injuring one.

Kablan began taking pictures of the protesters attacking a judge. When his flash went off, the protesters turned on the photographer and attacked him, sources at 24 Heures said. Kablan was able to remove the film from his camera before the angry youths seized and broke it. Kablan escaped the fracas with minor bruises, and the photographs were published in the next day's edition of 24 Heures.

Gombahi was attacked while trying to interview some of the protesters. A youth beat the journalist severely and destroyed his tape recorder. Gombahi was later taken to the hospital for treatment. The editor–in–chief of Le Jour Plus said the newspaper had filed a complaint about the incident with the public prosecutor.

Local sources said that police stood by during the attacks on the judges and journalists.

MARCH 24, 2004
Updated: August 3, 2004

Gaston Bony, Le Venin, La Voix de l'Agnéby


Bony, publication director of Le Venin weekly newspaper and a host at the radio station La Voix de l'Agnéby, was sentenced to six months in prison on criminal defamation charges in a court in Agboville, a town about 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of the commercial capital, Abidjan. He also received a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (US$93).

Agboville Mayor Tetchi Chiedou Claude pressed charges against Bony after he accused the mayor of corruption in a February 23 Le Venin article, according to local sources.

President Laurent Gbagbo has repeatedly claimed that "no journalist [would] be imprisoned" by his administration. This is the first time since Gbagbo came to power four years ago that a journalist has been convicted and jailed for his work in Ivory Coast.

On July 28, a court provisionally released Bony. His lawyer, Gohi Bi Raoul, said he also argued for Bony's release on the basis of his health problems. An appeal will be heard on October 16.

Bony told CPJ he has a heart problem and has been seriously weakened by unsanitary conditions and a lack of medical care in prison. In June, he was brought to court to face new defamation charges stemming from another article in Le Venin, which were subsequently dropped. During the proceedings, he fell ill and later had to have an appendectomy.

Bony said he has he has been repeatedly threatened with death unless he leaves Agboville.

MARCH 25, 2004

Posted: April 1, 2004

Habiba Dembélé, TV2
Dramé Lancine, TV2
Laurent Banga, TV2
Joseph Konan, TV2


During huge anti–government protests, presidential guards at a roadblock in the commercial capital, Abidjan, stopped a car carrying Dembélé, a reporter for state–owned television station TV2, and Lancine, a cameraman at TV2. According to local sources, the guards had arrested several protesters and told the journalists to stop filming them. After the crew showed the guards their press cards, the guards threatened them with violence, saying they knew where the journalists lived, and that they would kill them.

The guards confiscated Dembélé's notes, as well as the journalists' video camera and their car keys. Lancine was told to erase the footage from his videocassette.

According to sources, an army officer who arrived on the scene told the guards to give back the journalists' notes, camera, and keys. The journalists were then released.

That same day, another TV2 team consisting of journalist Banga and his cameraman, Konan, was arrested and brought to a police station, where they were detained for several hours before being released without charge.

MARCH 25, 2004
Posted: April 1, 2004

Kady Sidibé, Le Patriote

During a massive demonstration against President Laurent Gbagbo, Sidibé, a photographer for the private, pro–opposition daily Le Patriote, was brutally harassed and attacked by police officers and members of the Republican Guard while covering the demonstration in Treichville, in southern Abidjan.

According to an article by Sidibé published in Le Patriote, officers beat and kicked her after she identified herself as a journalist. She was accused of being a rebel and threatened with rape and death. "You'll see, we're going to rape you," an officer said, according to Sidibé.

Several police officers then drove Sidibé to a Republican Guard station, where she was again beaten and harassed. She was then driven to another police station. There, a police captain threatened to make the journalist undress after hearing that she worked for Le Patriote, Sidibé said. She was detained for several hours before being released on the orders of an army spokesman.

According to Le Patriote's editor–in–chief, Sidibé's camera, which police confiscated, was not returned until March 30.

MARCH 25, 2004
Posted: April 1, 2004

Radio France Internationale
Africa No. 1


FM transmissions of radio stations Radio France International (RFI), BBC, and Africa No. 1 went off air in Abidjan around noon while massive demonstrations occurred in the city against President Laurent Gbagbo. Agence France–Presse quoted an RFI spokesperson as saying on March 25 that the transmitter cutoff was not due to technical reasons but was "probably deliberate," given the "tension" in the city. AFP said that at the start of the Ivoirian crisis in September 2002, the same three radio stations had gone off air for several weeks.

Transmitters for these three stations are managed by one local company, SITEL, and are situated in the same building in the heart of the "red zone" surrounding the presidential palace, which government forces had declared off–limits on March 25. CPJ sources said that unidentified individuals forcefully disconnected the transmitters but did not steal any equipment. Technicians were unable to access the area until March 29 since it was still sealed off. Broadcasts resumed at around 1 p.m. on March 30. No official explanation for the cutoff has been given, despite journalists' inquiries.

MARCH 25, 2004
Posted: April 2, 2004

Willy Aka, L'Intelligent d'Abidjan

During massive protests in Abidjan against President Laurent Gbagbo, Aka, a photojournalist working for the private daily L'Intelligent d'Abidjan, was stopped and harassed by a group of security forces. After Aka showed the officers his press card, which included an entrance badge for the Presidential Palace, the officers confiscated the journalist’s bag, containing his camera and cell phone, and beat him with nightsticks. Aka was not seriously injured, according to colleagues.

Although Aka filed a complaint with police about the confiscated equipment, one week later his camera and cell phone had still not been returned, according to colleagues.

MARCH 25, 2004
Posted: April 3, 2004

Dembélé Al Séni, Le Patriote
Agbola Mesmer, Le Patriote


Al Séni and Mesmer, reporter and photographer, respectively, for the private, pro–opposition daily Le Patriote, were arrested and attacked while covering mass demonstrations organized by the political opposition to protest President Laurent Gbagbo's alleged failure to fully implement the January 2003 Marcoussis peace accords.

Police arrested the journalists while they were observing the protests from a gas station shop, Al Séni said in a testimonial published the following week in Le Patriote. After the two identified themselves as journalists, they were taken to the local police station, where they were detained and severely beaten before being released.

Both journalists were taken to a hospital for 24 hours to have their injuries treated, but neither was able to return to work immediately after the attack. Mesmer's camera, which police seized, was returned to the newspaper the next week.

MARCH 25, 2004
Posted: April 5, 2004

Guira Safi, Le Libéral Nouveau

Kone Malick, Le Libéral Nouveau

Safi, Vamara, and Malick, copy editor, driver, and webmaster, respectively, for the private, pro–opposition daily Le Libéral Nouveau, were brutally attacked by police officers during mass demonstrations in Abidjan against President Laurent Gbagbo's alleged failure to fully implement the terms of the January 2003 Marcoussis peace accords.

The three were returning home from work by car when police stopped them at a roadblock and interrogated them. When they said that they worked for Le Libéral Nouveau, the officers made them get out of their car and proceeded to beat them. Safi and Vamara were later taken to a hospital for treatment. They were released from the hospital on March 28.

APRIL 16, 2004
Posted: June 3, 2004

Guy-André Kieffer, freelance

Kieffer, one of the few foreign investigative reporters still based in Ivory Coast, was last seen on April 16, according to local and international press reports. In the weeks prior to his disappearance, Kieffer received death threats, according to his family and friends, who fear that he has been killed. The journalist has both French and Canadian citizenship. Since then his cell phone has been switched off, and his family has not heard from him. Unconfirmed reports in the opposition press have suggested that members of the security forces abducted and killed Kieffer. Reports that the tortured corpse of a white man was seen in Azaguié, near Abidjan, also remain unconfirmed. The missing journalist is also a commodities consultant who specializes in the Ivory Coast's lucrative cocoa and coffee sectors for a company that had contracts with the government. He had conducted numerous investigations in these sectors, including exposing corruption. His freelance work included contributions to the Paris-based African business newsletter Lettre du Continent.

On May 25, Michel Legré, a brother-in-law of Ivory Coast's first lady, was detained in the commercial capital, Abidjan, and formally charged as an accessory in the kidnapping, confinement, and murder of Kieffer, according to international news reports. According to local press reports, Kieffer, was on his way to meet Legré when he disappeared.

A French judicial inquiry has been under way since May 3, after Kieffer's wife filed a complaint in a Paris court. France and Ivory Coast have a bilateral treaty on judicial cooperation dating back to Ivorian independence in 1960.

In the days before he was detained, Legré testified for 10 hours before a French investigating judge and blamed people close to the Ivorian government for Kieffer's disappearance, according to local and international press reports. On May 21, the French judge, Patrick Ramael, complained to the Ivorian state prosecutor that he has been unable to question the government officials that Legré implicated and asked the prosecutor to intervene.

While the government has charged Legré with murder, Kieffer's body has not been recovered, and the government has yet to present evidence that he was killed.

APRIL 25, 2004
Posted: May 20, 2004

François Agui, Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI)

Agui, a cameraman for the Ivoirian Broadcasting Corporation RTI, was manhandled, threatened, and had his camera damaged by government supporters at a rally of the militant Young Patriots Movement, which supports the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party of President Laurent Gbagbo. Agui had gone to cover the pro-government rally in Chaumproux stadium in Abidjan, according to media reports and local journalists.

A group of militants approached Agui, accusing him of filming empty spaces in the stadium to give the impression that the rally was poorly attended. When he showed his RTI identity card, the militants tore it up, accused him of being a rebel and threatening to kill him. Riot police came to his rescue and helped him out of the stadium.

Local journalists say the Young Patriots may have been angered that RTI had covered an opposition rally the previous day, and that the outlet had announced the postponement of the Young Patriot rally from April 24 to April 25 before their leader did. The Young Patriots' rally was postponed under heavy pressure from the United Nations and other international observers in the country, who feared problems if the two rallies took place simultaneously, according to Agence France-Presse.

AUGUST 22, 2004

Updated: October 15, 2004

Amadou Dagnogo, L'Inter

Dagnogo, Bouake correspondent for the Abidjan-based independent daily L'Inter, said he was forced into a vehicle by supporters of Guillaume Soro, leader of the Forces Nouvelles (FN) rebel movement that controls Bouake. They held him in detention, beat and tortured him, saying they did not like his articles, according to the journalist. He said they told him his newspaper was "too hard" on them.

Dagnogo said he managed to escape after six days, but was in hiding and did not resurface until October 14.

Before disappearing, Dagnogo told his editor he had received threats from the FN. Dagnogo wrote articles about a split in the rebel movement and alleged atrocities by Soro's men. Fighting broke out in June between Soro's forces and those loyal to rival rebel commander Ibrahim Coulibaly, popularly known as IB. Some local sources say L'Inter is seen as sympathetic to Coulibaly, and frequently publishes stories from his Web site.

Dagnogo said he managed to escape thanks to "friends" among the pro-Soro rebels. He said he did not contact anyone immediately because he was still in hiding and without money.

Dagnogo said he later traveled north to Korhogo and Bamako, the capital of Mali, where he tried to get help to fly back to Abidjan. When that failed, he returned to Ivory Coast, to the western town of Man, where French peacekeepers have a base to the north of the ceasefire line. The peacekeepers agreed to fly him to Abidjan.

Ivory Coast has been divided into government-controlled south and rebel-held north since an armed rebellion in 2002. Fighting broke out in the north in June between rebel forces loyal to Coulibaly and those of Soro, who is also communications minister in the power-sharing government established under a fragile 2003 peace accord. Coulibaly was arrested in France in August 2003 on charges of planning to overthrow the government, but still has some supporters in the north.

NOVEMBER 4, 2004

Posted: November 9, 2004

Le Patriote, 24 Heures, Le Nouveau Réveil and Le Libéral Nouveau

Gangs of more than 100 armed youths attacked private dailies Le Patriote, 24 Heures, Le Nouveau Réveil and Le Libéral Nouveau, looting and destroying equipment and documents, according to local sources and international news reports. They set fire to the premises of Le Patriote, 24 Heures and Le Libéral Nouveau, which were badly damaged. CPJ sources said they believe the attackers were "Young Patriots," militia loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) party. All four newspapers managed to evacuate staff, and no one was hurt.

The attacks came as hostilities resumed in the rebel-held north of the country.

Sources at Le Patriote said the youths arrived in two buses of the Ivoirian public transport company and tried to break down the newspaper's metal door. It was at this point that the staff managed to escape. Employees at other newspapers were able to escape thanks to warnings from their colleagues at Le Patriote. However, staff at these newspapers say they have received threats accusing them of supporting the rebels and opposition, and that they fear for their safety. None of the newspapers were immediately able to publish again because of damages to their premises and equipment.

NOVEMBER 4, 2004
Posted: November 9, 2004

Le Patriote, 24 Heures, le Nouveau Réveil, le Libéral Nouveau, Le Front, Ivoire Matin, Le Journal des Journeaux and Le Jour Plus.

Eight newspapers considered sympathetic to the Ivoirian opposition were banned from distribution in the government-held south, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP) and local sources. The ban came as hostilities resumed in the rebel-held north of the country.

AFP quoted a military source as saying this was a "restraining measure against these pro-rebel newspapers in conjunction with movements on the ground." CPJ sources said a government official had delivered a list of the eight banned newspapers to the distribution company Edipresse.

NOVEMBER 4, 2004
Posted: November 9, 2004

Radio France Internationale, BBC and Africa No. 1

Unidentified attackers sabotaged the FM transmitters of international radio stations Radio France Internationale (RFI), BBC and Africa No. 1, silencing their FM broadcasts in Abidjan. Their transmitters are based in the same location. AFP quoted a reliable source as saying that seven unidentified people entered the transmitter location in the Plateau district of Abidjan at 2 a.m. local time. After overwhelming the guard, the group removed frequency modulation cards that allow the FM broadcasts, AFP said.

The attack came as hostilities resumed in the rebel-held north of the country.

This was not the first time the transmitters were sabotaged during a national crisis. For example, the same radio stations went off the air on March 25 at the time of a banned opposition demonstration during which government forces killed at least 120 people, according to the United Nations. Broadcasts resumed a few days later, but Ivoirian authorities gave no explanation.

NOVEMBER 7, 2004
Posted: November 12, 2004

Antoine Massé, Le Courrier d'Abidjan

Massé, a correspondent for the private daily Le Courrier d'Abidjan, was fatally shot while covering violent clashes between French troops and demonstrators in the western Ivoirian town of Duékoué, his editor told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Le Courrier d'Abidjan editor Théophile Kouamouo told CPJ that Massé was among several people killed during a demonstration by the pro-government group "Young Patriots," which opposed the movement of French peacekeeping troops from the west to the commercial capital, Abidjan. The demonstration came amid several days of unrest in this former French colony during which at least 27 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured, The Associated Press reported.

The turmoil began November 6 after an Ivory Coast air strike against French peacekeepers killed nine soldiers and a U.S. aid worker. France, which had been overseeing a fragile cease-fire between rebel and government forces, retaliated by destroying the country's military aircraft—sparking an uprising by loyalist youths in the south who took to the streets armed with machetes, iron bars, and clubs. France and other nations began evacuating thousands of foreigners this week.

Kouamouo, whose newspaper is considered sympathetic to President Laurent Gbagbo's Ivoirian Patriotic Front (FPI) party, claimed that French troops had opened fire during the November 7 clash in Duékoué. French military officials did not comment directly on Massé's death, although French Gen. Henri Bentegeat acknowledged Friday that his soldiers had opened fire in certain cases to hold back violent mobs, the AP reported.

But Bentegeat told Europe-1 radio that the soldiers did "the absolute minimum" in self-defense and claimed that gunmen among the demonstrators had caused "a very large number" of the casualties.