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Cote d’Ivoire28 September 2004

L’Inter correspondent in Bouaké went missing a month ago after repeated threats

Reporters Without Borders voiced deep concern today about the disappearance exactly one month ago of journalist Amadou Dagnogo, L’Inter’s correspondent in Bouaké, a large town in the centre of Ivory Coast and stronghold of the former rebels of the New Forces (FN), who control the north of the country. Dagnogo had been publicly threatened by FN representatives before he went missing.

"Whatever may have happened to Amadou Dagnogo, the menacing language used by FN leaders is unacceptable," the organisation said. "Without accusing anyone, we call for an explanation of the threats made against a journalist whose reporting never strayed into the language of hate so common in Ivory Coast."

Reporters Without Borders added: "Furthermore, if the FN has any information about Dagnogo’s fate, we urge them to make it known. Journalists must be able to work safely throughout Ivory Coast."

Threats, accusations and summons

Dagnogo has not been seen since 28 August and none of his friends and family members have had any word of him since then, Reporters Without Borders was told in Bouaké. His belongings are still in his home. In the days prior to his disappearance, he told his editors he feared for his life and that he had "escaped an ambush" by two men in plain clothes who tried to arrest him.

L’Inter editor Charles d’Almeida said Dagnogo was summoned to FN headquarters after the ambush attempt and was explicitly warned that the reports in his newspaper were putting his life in danger.

Reporters Without Borders is particularly troubled by the fact that, four days before Dagnogo went missing, the FN director of communications, Warrant Officer Antoine Beugré, indicated to him in a letter that he was refusing L’Inter permission to do the reporting for a story in Bouaké and the northern town of Korhogo.

In his letter, dated 24 August, Beugré wrote: "This decision is the result of the murky game being played by your newspaper, which has been publishing false reports and misinforming Ivorians for several months, and indulging in an unhealthy game of fictitious journalism with disregard for the safety of its correspondents residing in Bouaké and Korhogo."

Dagnogo had recently reported on the tension within the former rebel forces, in particular, the split between Staff Sergeant Ibrahim Coulibaly and FN general secretary and communication minister Guillaume Soro. In an article on 14 July, Dagnogo also reported the public threats by Kani mayor Meité Yaya against those who try to "divide the north" and Yaya’s call to FN leaders to "systematically execute the black sheep."

"Forbidden zone for disinformation lovers"

The climate of hostility fostered by the FN towards certain journalists in the north has worsened in recent months. The Ivorian Popular Movement of the Great West (MPIGO), one of the FN’s components, declared in an "editorial" on its website that the areas it controlled were a "forbidden zone for disinformation lovers" and said L’Inter had received a "polite refusal" in August.

Dagnogo had been appointed as L’Inter correspondent in Bouaké in May, replacing Baba Coulibaly who is now working in Abidjan. Coulibaly had also received threats from FN leaders, as had at least three other journalists in the north of the country who were questioned in the course of this month by Reporters Without Borders.

A family source reportedly told a local journalist that Dagnogo fled to Mali but Reporters Without Borders has not been able to confirm this.

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