Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger (JED) today published a report on their investigation into Franco-Congolese journalist Bruno Jacquet Ossébi’s mysterious death in a military hospital in Brazzaville on 2 February, 12 days after he was injured in a fire at his home that killed his girlfriend and her two children.
The report, which is being released just a few days before a presidential election in Republic of Congo, tries to address some of the questions surrounding Ossébi’s death, which is still a complete mystery. Did he die a natural death as a result of injuries sustained in the fire, or was he murdered? Was the fire started by accident or was it arson?
The failure to carry out an autopsy on Ossébi’s body or a forensic investigation at the scene of the fire may mean that the truth will never be known. Senior police officials have minimised the importance of the case and have even questioned that Ossébi, who wrote for the online opposition newspaper Mwinda, was a journalist.
Three days before the fire, Ossébi wrote an article accusing a French bank of reaching an illegal financing agreement with the Société Nationale de Pétrole du Congo. An anti-corruption activist, Ossébi was also involved in the complaint which Transparency International brought before a French court accusing President Denis Sassou-Nguesso and two other African leaders of illegally amassing property in France.
The report is based on the findings of a visit that Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger, its partner organisation in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, made to Brazzaville from 20 to 27 May.
The Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger representatives obtained unpublished documentary evidence including amateur video of the destruction of Ossébi’s house just 14 hours after the deadly fire.
The team also met more than 80 people including relatives of the victims, Ossébi’s friends and neighbours, journalists, members of a commission that is supposed to be investigating the fire, senior police and intelligence officials, diplomats and a member of the government. It also spoke by telephone from Paris with a dozen leading French and Congolese figures.
Noting the absence of a proper investigation, Reporters Without Borders and Journalist in Danger urge the commission that was appointed to conduct enquiries to do so in a thorough manner, without ruling out any hypothesis, and then to publish its findings as soon as possible.
As Ossébi had dual French and Congolese citizenship, they also urge the Congolese government to seek the help of the French police and judicial authorities in this case and invite the French government to open a parallel investigation in France.
The two organisations finally call on the victor of this weekend’s presidential election, in which Sassou-Nguesso is running for another term, to guarantee that journalists will be free to work without being exposed to threats, intimidation or violence.
Download the full report in French :
See amateur videos of the destruction of Ossébi’s house :