Violence against journalists in Central African Republic

by Khephren Fanga

Reporters Without Borders is deeply disturbed by acts of violence against news media and journalists in connection with a month-old armed uprising in the Central African Republic against President François Bozizé's government.

Community radio stations, a major source of news for much of the population, have been particularly affected. Reporters Without Borders has learned that equipment was damaged or removed at several radio stations, including Radio Be Oko in the central town of Bambari and Radio Kaga in the central town of Kaga Bandoro.

Radio Be Oko journalist Elisabeth Blanche Olofio was killed when rebels attacked her station. The fate of her colleagues is not known. According to information obtained by Reporters Without Borders, other journalists have been subjected to physical violence or are being threatened.

"Several community radio stations are no longer able to operate as result of rebel hostility or looting by local residents taking advantage of the chaos," Reporters Without Borders said. "Although politically neutral, many stations have had to stop broadcasting because they no longer have the required equipment, or out of concern for the safety of their personnel.

"Silencing journalists at times of unrest endangers the population by depriving them of crucial information. It is essential for a solution to the crisis that the acts of violence against the media should stop."

Radio Magbadja, a radio station recently installed in Alindao by the staff of Radio France Internationale, was also ransacked by members of the Seleka rebel coalition, who took all of its equipment.

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