As the CAR struggles to emerge from the violence of a civil war that saw radio stations ransacked and destroyed, journalists are still in danger from the various warring factions and attacks on the media continue, including a radio station ransacked in April 2020. Much of the country is not controlled by the state and the authorities are increasingly intolerant of criticism. Journalists who interview the various parties involved in the conflict are often treated as spies or as the accomplices of armed groups, and are often the targets of violence. This was seen again in 2019 when a policeman fired at a journalist in Bouar and violence was used to detain two French reporters in Bangui. The security environment during the presidential election in late 2020 was appalling. Some journalists were directly threatened. Others were pressured by being invited to “participate in the war effort” or by being forced to stay in the capital to cover the armed clashes taking place there. Disinformation campaigns, especially online ones, are increasing in scale and it is not unusual for responsible journalists and bloggers to be the targets of hate messages, defamation and attacks on social media. The vulnerable and easily-influenced print media publish little more than editorials, rumours and smear campaigns. Backed by Switzerland’s Fondation Hirondelle, Radio Ndeke Luka is one of the few media outlets providing properly-sourced reporting in a landscape scarred by years of conflict, but it is often subjected to pressure. When crimes of violence are committed against journalists, there is total impunity. Those responsible for the murders of three Russian journalists in July 2018 shortly after they arrived with the aim of investigating the presence of Russian mercenaries have not been identified. A great deal of disturbing evidence discredits the official version that they were killed in the course of being robbed. No hypothesis can be ruled out and only an independent international investigation, which RSF has requested, would be able to provide credible answers. The murders of Central African journalists Elisabeth Blanche Olofio, Désiré Luc Sayenga and René Padou, who were killed in the course of their work at the height of the crisis in 2014, and French photographer Camille Lepage, who was killed the same year, are still unpunished. Six years after Lepage’s murder, RSF continues to request a field investigation, including a reenactment of the murder at the scene.
Central African Republic