Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said that it is appalled to learn that two French journalists were beaten by police and then arrested while covering a banned opposition demonstration in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, on 15 June, and calls for those responsible to be identified and punished.
“Members of the Central African Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB) gave me several kicks, punches and blows with their guns when I identified myself to them as an accredited journalist,” Agence France-Presse reporter Florent Vergnes said.
Vergnes and his AFP colleague Charles Bouessel were then subjected to an interrogation lasting several hours during which they were accused of helping to organize the protest. Part of their equipment was smashed and confiscated. They were finally freed after being held for six hours.
“The withdrawal of the charges against these two journalists is essential but far from sufficient,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk “The police who violently attacked these two journalists in the course of their reporting and then used trumped-up charges in an attempt to disguise their blunder must be prosecuted and punished appropriately. How this case is handled will serve as a test of the state of press freedom in the CAR.”