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Côte d’Ivoire23 October 2003

Policeman "deliberately shot" Jean Hélène

23 October 2003

Ivorian state prosecutor Ange Kessy said Hélène had been "deliberately shot dead" by police Sgt. Dago Théodore, who had tried to prevent him entering police headquarters. He had hit him with his Kalashnikov rifle before shooting him in the left temple. He had also disobeyed his superiors, who told him a few minutes earlier that Hélène was a journalist who must be allowed to do his job. Kessy said he had asked for help from French police in the murder enquiry, which would be completed in less than two weeks. Théodore faces 20 years in prison for the killing.

22 October 2003

RFI correspondent killed by policeman

Reporters Without Borders called today for a full enquiry into the murder of French journalist Jean Hélène, correspondent for Radio France International (RFI), who was shot dead by a policeman near national police headquarters in Abidjan on 21 October.

"An independent investigation must be made, including an autopsy and the opinion of ballistic experts, to find out exactly how and why he died," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The Ivorian authorities, and especially President Laurent Gbagbo, must ensure that all the facts are revealed and that those responsible are duly punished for this crime."

Ménard noted that foreign journalists working in Côte d’Ivoire had been regularly threatened in recent years and that Hélène’s predecessor as RFI correspondent, Bruno Minas, was forced to leave the country. Since civil war broke out in September last year, the French media, especially RFI, has been accused of playing into the hands of the anti-government rebels. State-run media and privately-owned pro-government newspapers have several times accused foreign journalists by name.

A Reporters Without Borders mission to Côte d’Ivoire in October last year said that the president’s office, the communications ministry and state-run media had joined sensationalist privately-owned papers in encouraging people to believe the foreign press was partly responsible for the war, thus making working conditions for foreign journalists even more dangerous. The organisation has several times urged the authorities to improve security for the international media.

Hélène, 48, who had been in Côte d’Ivoire for RFI for only a few months, was gunned down near police headquarters as he waited to interview government opponents who had just been released after several days in detention. Police said he was shot in the head and that the officer responsible had been questioned by his superiors. President Gbagbo, prime minister Seydou Diarra and French ambassador Gildas Le Lidec all went to the scene after the murder.

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