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IFJ condemns threats against two journalists covering drug trafficking

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ condemns the intimidation of journalists covering drug trafficking in Guinea Bissau

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Guinea-Bissau to help end the intimidation of journalists covering the trafficking of drugs in the country and to ensure appropriate compensation is paid to the journalists who were victims of a road accident in 2005, following a recent court ruling.

"We are very worried for the security of our colleagues in Guinea-Bissau," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa office. "We condemn these acts of intimidation and call on the government to make sure they end. Drug trafficking is a serious problem in the country and journalists must be able to investigate it in total independence."

Albert Dabo, a journalist working for Reuters and the private radio station Bombolom FM, has been receiving regular verbal threats through the phone since June. Because of the extent of the intimidations, the journalist was forced to go into hiding for a week this month before he felt safe enough to return to work. Dabo, like several other journalists, published information from authorities and civil society groups revealing that senior state and military officials were involved in the trafficking. Quoted in a Reuters story (June 1), the Interior Minister recognized the situation and announced the establishment of a commission to fight it.

At least one more journalist has been threatened for his coverage of drug trafficking. Guinea-Bissau is considered one of the main routes for drug trafficking in Africa.

In another situation, the State of Guinea-Bissau was condemned on July 6 to pay 79 million FCFA (120,000 Euros) compensation to the journalist-victims of a road accident in December 2005. This decision follows a trial between the Union of Journalists and Technicians of Social Communication (SINJOTECS) of Guinea-Bissau and the State.

According to the SINJOTECS, the families of the two journalists who died in the accident, Sori Baldé of the Television of Guinea Bissau and Aruna Djamanca of the private weekly magazine Kansaré, will receive 18 million FCFA (27,000 Euros) each. The remaining money will be shared between the 11 other journalists and media workers injured in the accident.

The driver of the bus was found guilty of negligence and condemned to pay 250 FCFA (0,40 Euro) per day over eight months to the victims.

The State representatives filed an appeal on Monday.

"While we are delighted with this judgement we are deeply concerned that the state representatives have opted to appeal," said Baglo. "It is time to provide the journalists' families with compensation for this terrible accident in the hope that it can go some way to help them recover from the ordeal."

The National Secretariat of the Fight against AIDS and the State Secretariat of Social Communication, the convicted State institutions, organized the trip that caused the accident of the journalists in the area of Gabu, 200 km from the capital city, Bissau, during the celebration of the World AIDS Day, on December 1, 2005.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries.

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