Côte d’Ivoire ALERT: Journalists brutalized by presidential guards

Members of the Presidential Security Group of Ivorian President Alassane Ouatarra attacked Bamba Mafoumgbé, a journalist with the daily Le Temps, and journalist Emmanuel Akani of Le Nouveau Courrier newspaper on April 3, 2015.

Recounting the incident to MFWA’s correspondent in Cote d’Ivoire, Mafoumgbé said when he and Akani arrived at the venue, they were denied entry because although they had been accredited to attend the event, they did not have an invitation letter.

Since they were unable to gain access, Mafoumgbé, together with Akani and Gooré Bi Hué from Fraternité Matin (a public newspaper) and another reporter from the news portal bidjan.net, stood aside while other guests with invitation letters were allowed inside.

While standing there, Akani noticed a presidential guard and inquired if he and his colleagues could enter. The bodyguard, identified as Koné, told him “If you continue, you will be sent out.” Mafoumgbé told Koné they were journalists and had been accredited and consequently must be allowed to attend the event.

Angered by Mafoumgbé insistence, Koné called other presidential guards who started abusing the journalists.

“One tried to handcuff me while another wielding a kalashnikov (a type of assault rifle) held me by my belt and pushed me down violently,” Mafoumgbé told the correspondent. “My left knee and laptop hit the ground very hard. What then ensued was absolute chaos.”

The guards also beat up Akani, tearing up his clothes in the process. A police detachment at the venue eventually rescued the two and took them to the Emergency Medical Assistance Unit for treatment.

According to the MFWA’s correspondent, M’mah Camara, a female assistant of Apa news, a Pan-African news agency, was also brutalized by Koné and his colleagues in an earlier separate incident.

The MFWA condemns this attack on the journalists who were merely doing their work. We note with concern that on many occasions, event organisers fail to properly provide protection to invited journalists. We recall the incident involving Fabrice Tété, a reporter of the Le Temps, who was brutalized by the bodyguard of Pascal Affi N’guessan, Chairman of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front party, when he was invited to attend a World Press Day event in 2014. In light of these incidents, we urge state actors to respect journalists’ press freedom rights and allow them to cover events which they were invited to attend.

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