Two AFP reporters manhandled, detained for covering banned protest

Libreville: Two reporters working for the French news wire – Agence France-Presse (AFP) were beaten up and detained by security forces in Central African Republic while they were covering a banned opposition protest in the capital Bangui, sources confirmed yesterday.

The duo is identified as Charles Bouessel, 28, and Florent Vergnes, 30 both working with AFP were brutally manhandled by the members of the Central Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB) and interrogated for six hours on Saturday, PTI reports.

“The protest was going well, the (police) let us film and clearly saw that we were not part of the rally,” Bouessel said Sunday.

“Then the protesters were quickly dispersed. Trucks carrying OCRB members arrived and we heard live bullets being fired”, he added.

Though the two reporters told the security forces they were allowed to cover the protest they were prevented from leaving the area.
The OCRB “seemed furious that we were filming the scene and charged at us,” Bouessel said.

“One of them grabbed my camera and smashed it on the ground. I put my hands up in the air but received a first slap to the head. My backpack was snatched from me and thrown to the ground. When I asked to get them back. I received more punches,” he said.

The other reporter Vergnes was “grabbed by the throat”, slapped and “pistol-whipped in the back with a Kalashnikov” by them.

“I had a nosebleed and my back and jaw hurt,” Vergnes said who had to see a doctor in Bangui for his injuries.

Justice Minister Flavien Mbata confirmed the two journalists had been arrested over their alleged participation in a banned protest.