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Côte d’Ivoire26 March 2004

Reporters Without Borders expresses concern at arrests and attacks on journalists in Abidjan

Radio France International, the BBC and Africa n°1 were back on air on 30 March but the authorities gave no explanation for the interruptions. However a spokesman at Radio France International said it was "very likely deliberate" because of the "tense situation" in Abidjan during demonstrations held by opposition parties.

Reporters Without Borders has urged Laurent Gbabgo to call to order members of the security forces responsible for policing opposition demonstrations after three journalists were arrested and a fourth beaten by police.

Journalist Al Séni and photographers, Messmer Agbola, and Kady Sidibé, working for the opposition daily Le Patriote, were arrested and later released covering demonstrations in support of the Linas-Marcoussis accords on 25 March in Abidjan.

A few hours beforehand, members of the security forces beat up Willy Aka, photographer for the independent daily L’Intelligent d’Abidjan and destroyed his equipment.

"The four journalists were covering demonstrations organised by the opposition and banned by Laurent Gbagbo. The police made no distinction between them and the demonstrators," the international press freedom organisation said.

"It is a very disturbing situation that threatens all the media, already destabilised by a year of political and military crisis. The authorities should ensure that people’s right to be informed is respected. We call on Laurent Gbagbo to do everything in his power so that the security forces allow journalists to work freely and safely, despite the political problems shaking the country and particularly the capital, Abidjan for several days."

Elsewhere on the same day, three international radios, Radio-France Internationale, the BBC and Africa n°1, stopped broadcasting from the capital. The reasons are still unclear and it was not possible to check with the company that relays the broadcasts if there was a technical explanation.

Shortly after the current crisis began, in September 2002, the three stations went off the country’s airwaves for several weeks.

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