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United States29 January 2009

Call for federal investigation into newspaper editor’s murder

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to the new US attorney general, Eric Holder, calling for the federal government to take over the investigation into the fatal shooting of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey. A year and a half after Bailey was gunned down in Oakland, California, on 2 August 2007, his murder is still unpunished.

Alleged incompetence and wrongdoing by the Oakland police department have already been the subject of several recent investigations, including a wide-ranging FBI probe into many of the department’s high-profile problems such as its handling on the Bailey murder.

“The police investigation into this brutal murder has been unsatisfactory in that the evidence recorded by the police and uncovered by investigative reporters suggests that the person accused of the murder is being used as a scapegoat by the perpetrator(s) and/or mastermind(s),” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard and Washington DC director Lucie Morillon wrote.

“It also suggests that local police officials may be protecting those responsible for Mr. Bailey’s death,” the letter continued. “The Chauncey Bailey Project, a cooperative effort between San Francisco Bay area journalists investigating his death, also recently revealed that a delay in an Oakland police raid on a local business, Your Black Muslim Bakery, may have cost Mr. Bailey his life.”

The letter acknowledged that California attorney general Jerry Brown took a “positive step” when ordering an investigation into how the case was handled by the Oakland police. But it pointed out that, “Mr. Brown may be found to have a conflict of interest in that, when Oakland’s mayor, he was in charge of the police department he is now investigating.”

The Reporters Without Borders letter also noted that Oakland police chief Wayne Tucker decided to stand down just before city council leaders prepared to call for a vote of no confidence. Announcing his resignation on 27 January, Tucker acknowledged that “mistakes” were made in the Bailey investigation.

“For all these reasons, we petition you to intervene, to conduct an independent investigation, and to prosecute those responsible for the murder of Chauncey Bailey,” Reporters Without Borders said in its letter, reaffirming the organisation’s support for the Chauncey Bailey Project and the journalists working on the case. (http://www.chaunceybaileyproject.org)

Bailey was murdered while looking into alleged financial mismanagement at Your Black Muslim Bakery, a network of community bakeries and services directed by Yusuf Bey IV. Your Black Muslim Bakery is also suspected of involvement in criminal activity and may have benefited from the protection of several local police officers. By investigating the bakery, Bailey was just doing his job as a journalist, which is to inform the public and expose misconduct, thereby contributing to a system of checks and balances essential to democracy.

Evidence is mounting against Bey in connection with the Bailey murder, but he still has not been formally charged with any crime. A Your Black Muslim Bakery employee, Devaughndre Broussard, has been charged with carrying out the shooting and is due to appear in court tomorrow to have a trial date set. He originally confessed to the shooting but retracted, saying he had been pressured by Your Black Muslim Bakery’s management to make a false confession.



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