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  • Capital of Bangui-Central African Republic

    Capital of Bangui-Central African Republic | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 June 2019

Two French journalists were arrested and beaten Saturday during the dispersal of a demonstration in the capital of Central African Republic, Bangui.

Two French journalists, Charles Bouessel and Florent Vergnes working for French news wire Agence France-Presse (AFP) were brutally arrested Saturday during the dispersal of a banned opposition protest in the capital city of Bangui in Central African Republic on Saturday.

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"The protest was going well, the police let us film and clearly saw that we were not part of the rally," Bouessel said Sunday, adding that "then the protesters were quickly dispersed. Trucks carrying Central Office for the Suppression of Banditry (OCRB) members arrived and we heard live bullets being fired."

OCRB officers fearing that the reporters had filmed the violent dispersal rushed on them grabbed their cameras and phones to throw to the ground and smash them up.

"The OCRB  seemed furious that we were filming the scene and charged at us," the journalist explained.

"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."

The two reporters were then taken to the OCRB headquarters where they were brutally beaten.

They were released after six hours of custody. One of them saw a doctor Sunday morning and his medical certificate refers, among other injuries, to bruises on the face and back.

Central African Justice Minister Flavien Mbata said the two journalists had been arrested because they were present at a protest banned by the police.

"We demanded yesterday that they be released, which has happened," Mbata told AFP, saying further steps would be determined "once we have all the details".

The current crisis and persistent insecurity throughout the country made reporting difficult.

Central African Republic one of the poorest countries in the world has been experiencing extremely violent conflicts since 2013. Armed fights between rival militias and factions along with recurrent political instability is the daily lot of the country.

Peace and socio-economic stability are still some way off as neither the new government nor the U.N. have the means to force armed groups to negotiate and disarm.

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