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In Central African Republic, rebel forces ransack outlets

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Seleka fighters cruise a neighborhood in Bangui. (AFP/Sia Kambou)

New York, March 26, 2013--At least two news outlets were raided in the Central African Republic on Sunday when rebel groups ousted the president from power, according to news reports and local press freedom groups.

Rebel groups known as Seleka ousted President François Bozizé from power in the capital, Bangui, according to local and international news reports. Seleka leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself the new head of state. Rebel forces, which had conquered most of the country's eastern region over recent months, had swept into Bangui, clashing with government forces and South African troops sent to bolster the former president, according to news reports.

Seleka fighters raided the Bangui studios of Radio Ndeke Luka, an independent station managed by the Switzerland-based Hirondelle Foundation, and confiscated some of its equipment, according to local journalists and Journaliste en Danger (JED), a press freedom group based in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The assailants seized a station vehicle and four motorcycles, and also confiscated two computers, Sylvie Panika, the station's director, told CPJ. Local journalists said the station stopped broadcasting that day, citing the region's instability and insecurity as reasons. The station resumed broadcasting today.

Panika also told CPJ that she had been robbed at gunpoint earlier Sunday by a rebel fighter as she exited a church. She said most of the money that was stolen belonged to the station.

Seleke fighters also raided the Bangui offices of the private daily Le Confident on Sunday, according to local journalists and JED. News accounts and local journalists did not immediately say if any of the outlet's equipment had been seized. The paper has stopped publishing, local journalists said. JED reported that the paper's editor, Mathurin Momet, had gone into hiding fearing his own safety.

It was not immediately clear whether the rebels had targeted the outlets.

"We condemn the attacks by rebel forces on Central African Republic news outlets," CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. "We call on the rebel forces to recognize journalists as civilians protected under international law and return all equipment that has been seized."

Christophe Gazam Betty, a spokesman for the Seleka fighters, said he was aware of only slight damage to the Radio Ndeke Luka vehicle and denied any knowledge of a raid on Le Confident. Betty said authorities were taking measures to avoid such attacks.

  • For more data and analysis, visit CPJ's Central African Republic page here.

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