The bullet-riddled body of Lago, 30, assistant editor-in-chief of Radio Yopougon, a community station, was found in a mass grave in Yopougon, the largest neighborhood in Abidjan and a stronghold of former president Laurent Gbagbo, according to the Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists and CPJ sources.
Yopougon was a battleground between Gbagbo fighters and the Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast that had allied with presidential rival Alassane Ouattara during a five-month struggle for power following the disputed November 2010 election. The Republican Forces (known by the French acronym FRCI) ransacked Lago’s station after seizing Yopougon in May, a month after ousting Gbagbo with the backing of French forces, the Ivorian journalist group said. Radio Yopougon was known for backing Gbagbo.
FRCI fighters publicly executed Lago and four other people accused of being Gbagbo militiamen on May 8, according to two eyewitnesses to the killing who spoke to CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. About 35 FRCI fighters aboard 4-by-4 trucks raided Lago’s home that day and forced him and five other men to kneel on the street at gunpoint under interrogation, according to the witnesses whose accounts were broadly corroborated by local journalists. The fifth man managed to escape, but the fighters opened fire on Lago and four others before driving away, the witnesses said. When the fighters returned later to find the journalist still alive, they killed him, the witnesses said.
Local journalists told CPJ that Lago was known for his moderation. He had worked for both pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo media outlets. A father of two, he was the secretary-general of the Organization of Professional Journalists of Ivory Coast.
CPJ has concluded that FRCI forces targeted Lago because of his public profile as a journalist with a media outlet whose management was favorable to Gbagbo. The Ouattara government has made no arrests in the murder.