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Côte d’Ivoire3 February 2004

Three journalists assaulted by presidential guardsmen

A photographer with Le Patriote, a daily that is close to the opposition, and two other journalists were recently assaulted by members of Ivoirian President Laurent Gbagbo’s presidential guard.

On 31 January 2004, Le Patriote photographer Ibrahim Diarra was beaten up by presidential guardsmen in Yamoussoukro, during a foundation stone-laying ceremony held at the future location of the presidential residence. Diarra was taking photographs of security agents when they stopped him and asked him who his employer was. They then combed through the journalist’s personal documents and found a letter written by him in which he mentioned an incident that took place when he covered a press conference of the Côte d’Ivoire Patriotic Movement (Mouvement patriotique de Côte d’Ivoire, MPCI, a former rebel group). The soldiers then accused Diarra of being an assailant and beat him up.

"It is unacceptable that members of the president’s security service can, with total impunity, attack a journalist who is covering an official event. The head of state must punish these officers and keep his troops in line," said Reporters Without Borders. "Such actions reinforce the climate of insecurity that surrounds the work of journalists in Côte d’Ivoire," the organisation added.

Charles Sanga, another Le Patriote reporter, and Frank Konaté, of the daily 24 Heures, were also beaten up after they came to their colleague’s defence.

Diarra was treated for injuries to his head and genitals at the Treichville (Abidjan) University hospital.

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