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Media news flash: Journalist attacked in Congo-Brazzaville while covering trial (IFJ, RWB)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed deep concern about the health and physical safety of journalist Sadio Kanté. Ms. Kanté is the Reuters correspondent in Congo-Brazzaville. She was attacked on September 16 by police while working in the capital, Brazzaville. Several independent sources contacted by the IFJ have confirmed the attack.

Gabriel Baglo is the Director of IFJ’s Africa Office. He condemned the attack as a violation of freedom of the press. Mr. Baglo says: “There is no justification for violence against a journalist who was doing her job, has formal accreditation and a press badge. We urge the authorities to open an investigation in order to punish any act of violence committed against her.”

Ms. Kanté had been covering a trial concerning the March 2012 explosion of a munitions depot in a working-class suburb of Brazzaville which killed at least 150 people. On Monday, September 16, she returned to the courthouse to film outside shots. As she was filming, a policeman ordered her to present her accreditation. Ms. Kanté showed papers which had been issued by the Congolese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

According to the IFJ, the policeman then grabbed her camera for no apparent reason, and Ms. Kanté was arrested and taken to a police station. She was then handcuffed and detained without explanation. The IFJ states that Ms. Kanté received a severe beating from three policemen. Unable to stand unassisted, Ms. Kanté was allegedly picked up and thrown out of the police station.

Ms. Kanté later received attention from a doctor for severe bruising, and now must use crutches to walk.

In June 2013, the country’s media regulator suspended three independent Brazzaville-based newspapers for four months for publishing “seditious articles.” According to Reporters Without Borders, or RWB, the Congolese media are often exposed to threats, intimidation and prosecution. RWB says that print media can occasionally cover corruption allegations involving the government, since their readership is small. But radio and TV stations, which have a much bigger audience, are generally wary of covering such issues, claims RWB.

The IFJ has reminded the Congolese authorities of their obligation to promote both the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press by guaranteeing conditions to encourage journalism. In their statement, the IFJ declares: “there can be no freedom of the press when journalists are attacked with impunity in the exercise of their profession.”

The IFJ has been monitoring Ms. Kanté’s situation very carefully. The organization would like justice to be seen to be done. It demands that an investigation be opened to identify Ms. Kanté’s attackers. Mr. Baglo insists, “This case should not go unpunished.”

http://africa.ifj.org/fr/articles/la-fij-sinquiete-de-la-securite-dune-journaliste-agressee-au-congo-brazzaville

http://en.rsf.org/report-congo,12.html http://fr.rsf.org/congo-congo-05-01-2010,35662.html

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