French Guiana24 September 2004
Prefecture denies journalist access to minister
RSF has expressed concern over the Cayenne prefecture’s refusal
to grant journalist Frédéric Farine permission to cover French Overseas
Departments Minister Brigitte Girardin’s visit to French Guiana. Cayenne is
the capital of French Guiana.
On 16 September 2004, Farine, a correspondent for Radio France
International’s (RFI) online news service, was refused permission to
accompany the Overseas Departments Minister on an 18 September mission -
dubbed "Operation Anaconda" - to wipe-out illegal gold-washing sites in the
south. When the journalist requested permission to board the army helicopter
that had been assigned for the press, he was reportedly told by the
prefecture’s administrative director, Daniel Josserand-Jaillet, "You are
constantly writing negative things about the prefectural services. I am not
going to put you on the press list for Ms. Girardin’s visit."
When contacted by Le Monde correspondent Laurent Marot on the afternoon of
16 September, Josserand-Jaillet confirmed that Farine had been excluded for
his "presumptuous behaviour" and for his "negative articles" about various
prefectural departments. Josserand-Jaillet reportedly told Marot that "all
departments have been instructed not to communicate with [Farine]." Another
journalist, who was with Marot at the time of the conversation, confirmed
the director’s statement.
When reached by RSF on September 22, however, Josserand-Jaillet denied
having made the comments, saying that Farine was not allowed on the
helicopter because there were no seats available when he called two days
earlier. Other journalists who were on the helicopter have confirmed that a
seat was, in fact, available on the aircraft, and that Farine, who was
present during take-off, was nevertheless not allowed to board.
In the July 2004 edition of Menmomag magazine, Farine published an
investigative report on the Cayenne prefecture’s alleged fraudulent granting
of visas. The journalist is also known for his reporting on gold-washing
industry violence. In July 2001, he co-authored a report with Le Monde’s
Marot denouncing the reign of terror of "quasi-militias" at the service of
gold-washing lords and the authorities’ complacent attitude toward them.
On 14 May 2003, Farine was violently attacked by gold-washing lord Jean Bena
while he was covering the murder trial of a former Bena employee for the RFO
Guyane radio station. On 16 December, a Cayenne court found Bena guilty of
assault in the incident and sentenced him to a four-month suspended prison
sentence and a fine of 3,000 euros (approx. US$ 3,680). The court justified
the harsh sentence by the serious nature of the incident, its context and
the high profile of the accused. Bena has appealed the verdict. The case is
scheduled to be heard on 11 October 2004.