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French Guiana7 October 2008

Local journalist, AFP correspondent, sidelined from military operation against illegal gold-washing

Reporters Without Borders has called for an explanation from the French Guiana prefecture and French Guiana’s regional military authorities over sidelining journalist, Frédéric Farine, of local weekly La Semaine Guyanaise and regional correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP), from a military operation against a secret gold-washing site.

The reporter, who also works for Radio France International and French daily La Croix, appears to have been deliberately excluded from the operation in the centre of the country, carried out by the prefecture and the Armed Forces of French Guiana (FAG).

The prefecture on 2 October 2008, invited several media on board a military helicopter to cover a FAG demolition of a secret gold-washing site in the Saul region. Among those invited were the correspondents for Reuters and representatives of three local media: privately-owned television ACG, Radio France Outremer (RFO, radio and television) and the daily France-Guyane.

“We protest first of all against the principle of selection of journalists by the authorities, which is even more surprising since they are behind the initiative of making it a media event,” the worldwide press freedom organisation. "How can it be that military personnel should exclude the correspondent in French Guiana of one of the major national media, AFP? Worse Frédéric Farine has already been treated in the same way during a visit to the region in 2004 of then minister for overseas territories, Brigitte Girardin (see release of 24 September 2004). The journalist however enjoyed “good relations” with the prefecture since then. We hope to rapidly have an explanation on what appears to be at best a blunder, and at worst an exclusion”.

Surprised at being sidelined, Farine told Reporters Without Borders that he had tried on the day itself to get an explanation from the authorities. A senior military officer told him that the army did not like the “editorial line” of La Semaine Guyanaise. For such a media operation, the officer said he needed “guarantees”, including “a prior reading” of articles in the weekly. When questioned by France-Guyane, another local media which reported the incident, the authorities said there had been a “weight problem” with the helicopter. But unofficially the officer confirmed that the journalist’s articles did not “play up enough” operations carried out by the FAG.

Farine said he was “dumbfounded” by this surprising treatment. The journalist has done a number of reports on gold-washing sites and goes there often of his own accord.




 
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