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Guinea28 February 2005

Two journalists badly beaten by Conakry police

Condemning the severe beatings that two journalists have received from the Conakry police in the past two weeks for just doing their job, Reporters Without Borders today called on President Lansana Conté to stop tolerating such "archaic and brutal" police methods in his country’s capital.

"Journalists are not there to serve as punch-bags for police acting on the orders of people in positions of power," the press freedom organization said, calling on the president to ensure that those responsible are punished and that violence against the press stops.

Lansana Sarr, a reporter with the governmental daily Horoya, was badly beaten and then detained by members of the police special intervention brigade on 14 February when he went to cover negotiations between the new owners of the Riviera Marina Hotel (the former Camayenne Hotel) and 105 employees seeking compensation for being laid off.

The police used violence to disperse employees and union representatives who had gathered outside the hotel. Despite knowing Sarr was a journalist, the police grabbed him, took his mobile phone and camera, beat him repeatedly, and dragged him across the road. When he got up and addressed the officer in command, the police grabbed him again, bundled him into a police van, and took him to the local police headquarters, where he was held for more than five hours. His equipment was returned to him the next day.

Sotigui Kaba, a reporter with the Le Lynx-La Lance press group, was severely beaten on 24 February by members of the Anti-Crime Brigade (BAC) and Conakry municipal police when he was sent to cover a protest by truck drivers working for the Transport-Terrassement-Minier (TTM) company in the eastern suburb of Matoto.

As soon as he arrived, he was accosted and insulted by Hawa Sangaré, the sister of environment minister Kader Sangaré. "These absurd journalists come to provoke us while we are doing our job," she reportedly said, and then ordered the police to attack him. Kaba was whipped, kicked, clubbed with sticks and rifle butts, and then undressed. His notebook, press card and ID card were all taken from him.

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