On February 23, 2022, Jean Saint-Clair Maka Gbossokotto, director of the privately owned fact checking news website and print newspaper Anti Infox RCA, experienced a medical emergency and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR), according to reports by the privately owned news websites Afriquexxi and the Daily Beast and one of his friends, who spoke to CPJ by phone on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Those media reports quoted Gbossokotto’s friends and associates as saying that the journalist met with an unnamed individual connected to the CAR government and the Russian mercenary company Wagner Group at a restaurant in the hours before he died; no autopsy was conducted. His wife, who was with him when he died, said at first Gbossokotto “complained of feeling extremely weak and felt like vomiting, and later he began to convulse, with frothy saliva gushing out of his mouth,” according to the Daily Beast report. The Afriquexxi report also cited a friend of the journalist’s mother as seeing "white foam" coming from his mouth and convulsions before his death.
Anti Infox RCA’s website reported critically on the presence of Wagner Group fighters in CAR, including two pieces published just days before Gbossokotto’s death, according to CPJ’s review of the site.
“Jean was definitely poisoned,” his friend told CPJ, citing the sudden manner of his death and the dinner meeting he had the evening of February 22. He added that Gbossokotto had previous health problems related to his heart and breathing.
Separately, two CAR-based journalists, who spoke to CPJ via a messaging app on condition of anonymity out of concern for their safety, said that Gbossokotto was out in Bangui until just before midnight on the night of February 22, and when he returned home he was extremely ill on the morning of February 23. They said he was then taken to the hospital, where he died.
Many people think Gbossokoto was poisoned, as he faced intimidation and threats associated with his work, according to those journalists.
CPJ sent a request for comment to the communications service of the CAR Ministry of Communication and Media via email and messaging app, but did not receive a response. CPJ called the ministry, but the call did not connect.
Several sources told Afriquexxi that the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) had opened an investigation into the case and that MINUSCA had declined to comment. CPJ emailed a request to Vladimir Monteiro, spokesperson for MINUSCA, to confirm the investigation and any outcome, and received an out of office message. CPJ called and emailed two other members of the MINUSCA communications team but did not receive an immediate response.