US group denounces foreign media 'harassment' in Congo

CPJ condemned as "harassment" the treatment of four foreign journalists covering the election in the Republic of Congo


LIBREVILLE — A New York-based media rights group on Saturday

condemned as "harassment" the treatment of four foreign journalists

covering last week's disputed presidential election

in the Republic of Congo.

"The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed by

the harassment of international journalists covering this week's

disputed presidential elections," it said in a statement.

The CPJ said Marlene Rabaud and Arnaud Zajtman of France 24

and Thomas Fessy of the BBC were manhandled by police

and had equipment confiscated or smashed during

the dispersal of an opposition protest on Wednesday.

The rally was held in protest at the announcement

that President Denis Sassou Nguesso had been re-elected.

"It's unacceptable in a democracy that international reporters

are being harassed for covering an election and its aftermath,"

said CPJ Africa Programme Coordinator Tom Rhodes.

"We call on authorities to halt this intimidation, return seized equipment,

and compensate media for any damages," Rhodes said.

The CPJ also said security agents harassed Catherine Ninin of

Radio France Internationale by going to her hotel

and demanding to see her.

Ninin received a threatening phone call from a presidential aide

an hour later, while two more groups of security agents

besieged the hotel throughout the night.

"The harassment of our colleague Catherine Ninin reveals

a climate of fear and self-censorship that local press

in the Republic of Congo has endured for years," added Rhodes.

Zajtman also reported receiving a similar phone call

in the middle of the night.

Police spokesman Jean Aive Alakoua said had not received

any complaints in connection with the alleged incidents.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who returned to power after

civil war in 1997 and has run the Congo for a total

of a quarter century, won Sunday's poll with 78.6 percent of the vote.

Several candidates have contested the result

and accused the authorities of massive fraud.

             J-L K.
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