Ivory Coast journalists caught in the crossfire

(The below is an excerpt from an interview that originally appeared on ProjetJ in French).

The security and humanitarian situation in Ivory Coast is quickly deteriorating. Journalists are being targeted directly by both supporters of outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo,
as well as his rival, Alassanne Ouattara. They are looking to flee the capital city of Adidjan, where combat is heaviest. ProjetJ interviewed independent photojournalist
Stéphane Goué, president of the Ivory Coast’s Committee to Protect Journalists (CIPJ), who is currently stationed in the capital.

What is the situation like right now in Abidjan?

We are close to civil war. Everywhere, journalists are being targeted. Death and kidnapping threats are prevalent on both sides, and two journalists who were considered to be pro-Ggagbo have been killed over the last few weeks.

Do you fear for your life?

I’ve been threatened as have most of my colleagues. The CIPJ has been coordinating an evacuation with a UN agency, and we had hoped to leave on Monday but I just found out there was no room on the plane. Now we are hoping to leave sometime this week by helicopter to a more stable location in the northwest. But we can’t stay here, it’s too dangerous.

Are foreign journalists also at risk?

One journalist from France24 and others from Africa 1 have been attacked and their possessions ransacked, but they were not injured. The UN presence here will help to protect them, but Gbagbo has accused outside media of distributing false information and empathizing with the rebels. This is dangerous because they could now become targeted by the Gbagbo supporters.

According to the UN, the political crisis that has engulfed the Ivory Coast since the November 2010 election has resulted in more than 460 deaths and 500,000 refugees. Gbagbo continues to refuse to relinquish power despite losing the election, and is pleading for a “national dialogue” to be moderated by an impartial body. Alassane Ouattara is asking the UN to use “legitimate force” to protect the country’s citizens.

UPDATE March 29: Goué and 13 other journalists have been safely flowing out of Abidjan.