Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the irresponsible and unacceptable behaviour of members of the Seleka rebel coalition who have robbed or ransacked several news media since entering the capital, Bangui, three days ago.
Rebel leaders have said they are trying to stop the looting.
Reporters Without Borders calls on the most senior officials now in control in Bangui to order the return of stolen equipment and to organize compensation for media that have suffered damage.
The press freedom organization has been trying to reach Seleka spokesman Christophe Gazam Betty by telephone, but so far without success. He is now communication minister in a new government of national unity.
Momet Mathurin Constant Nestor, the editor of the privately-owned newspaper Le Confident, described to Reporters Without Borders and its Kinshasa-based partner organization, Journalist in Danger, how his newspaper was ransacked on 24 and 25 March.
“The rebels have wiped out all my investments of the past 10 years,” he said. “It will be some time before I will be able to resume operating.” Referring to newly-ousted President Bozizé, he added: “I don’t know why they targeted me because neither I nor Le Confident were part of the Bozizé system.”
Another local journalist said: “We are in the presence of vandals who are looting everything in their path.”
Members of the Seleka rebel force also looted the UN radio station, Radio Ndeke Luka, taking one of its cars and five motorcycles, smashing office furniture and stealing at least two laptop computers. ID papers, money and other personal effects were taken from the station’s manager, Sylvie Panika.
As a result, Radio Ndeke Luka was off the air on 24 and 25 March, but was able to resume broadcasting yesterday because its studios and transmitters survived unscathed.
Privately-owned Radio Néhémie and the Bangui offices of the Institut Panos Paris were also looted.
Reporters Without Borders is very concerned for the physical safety of journalists in the Central African Republic and their ability to work, and therefore urges Bangui’s new strongman, Michel Djotodia, to guarantee the media’s right to operate freely and safely.
Photo : Members of the the Séléka coalition - AFP / Sia Kambou