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Côte d’Ivoire12 November 2004

Ivorian journalist killed during clashes with French troops at Duékoué

A local correspondent for Le Courrier d’Abidjan, a daily that supports President Laurent Gbagbo, was killed on the morning of 7 November during clashes between the Ivorian army, demonstrators and members of the French peacekeeping "Force Licorne," Reporters Without Borders confirmed today.

The newspaper reported that journalist Antoine Massé, who was also a literature teacher, was fatally shot as he was covering a demonstration aimed at blocking the eastward advance of the French troops from Man towards Abidjan.

A communique released by the Ivorian Defence and Security Forces (FDS) said three soldiers, a policeman, a customs official and three civilians were killed on 7 November when French troops opened fired in the Duékoué "corridor" at Duékoué and Dibobly. An FDS spokesman, Lt. Col. Jules Yao Yao, confirmed to Reporters Without Borders that Massé was one of the civilian victims.

A Force Licorne detachment that had left from Man found the road blocked on the morning of 7 November and opened fire in order to clear the way.

"The death of a journalist is to be taken seriously," Reporters Without Borders said. "We call on the Force Licorne to conduct an enquiry and publicly explain the circumstances of Antoine Massé’s death."

The organisation also appealed to journalists to take extra care. "With this level of confusion, a journalist should in particular identify himself clearly."

The staff of Le Courrier d’Abidjan said Massé was shot in the head and the heart. Deputy editor William Varlet Asia told Reporters Without Borders that he spoke to Massé by telephone a few hours before he was killed, and had reiterated to him the security precautions he should take.

The day before Massé was killed, Lazare Ahua, a cameraman with RadioTélévision Ivoirienne (RTI), sustained bullet injuries to the feet as he was filming a counter-strike by French helicopter gun ships at Tiébissou, in the centre of the country, following an Ivorian air force attack on French positions in Bouaké in which nine French soldiers were killed.

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