The Central African Republic: silencing the press

Credit GlobalPost

Credit GlobalPost

Conditions for journalists have deteriorated quickly in the Central African Republic. The country was ranked 65th in Reporters Without Borders’s 2013 Press Freedom Index, ahead of countries like Greece and Bosnia Herzegovinia.

In October, Reporters Without Boarders reported there have been “arbitrary arrests and serious threats targeting journalists in the country since the Seleka rebels came to power.”

The NGO reported that “there has been a major escalation in harassment, threats and intimidation against journalists with privately-owned media, which is being carried out or encouraged by the authorities”.

Amnesty International released a detailed report concerning human rights abuses in the country on October 30th of this year. The October report was damning and painted a portrait of a failed state in need international intervention: “The security forces are out of control and urgent action is needed by the national authorities and the international community to establish law and order”.

Amnesty international told News Anois they currently have no representatives on the ground but are hopeful they will have people back in the country documenting what is happening by Christmas.

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire

The Central African Republic: state of chaos

Credit www.voanews.com

Credit voanews.com

Although this war has gone largely unreported it is an unfortunately familiar story – quasi-religious warlords, armies of child soldiers, sexual violence as military strategy, burnt out villages and hostile neighbours.

France is looking to increase their military presence in the region – pending UN backing. They already have 400 troops stationed there.

The Central African Republic (CAR), is a former French colony. It has been in a state of turmoil since December of 2012. Seleka rebels seized power last March and have recently been overthrown by the Comité extraordinaire de défense des acquis démocratiques-(CEDAD)

In July, the ‘African Union’ authorised a peacekeeping mission, 3,600 strong, in an effort to stablise the country.

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius described the situation in CAR as bordering on an, “imminent threat of a humanitarian disaster.”

Roughly 460,000 people have been displaced during the conflict so far and there are fears the chaos may spread to neighbouring countries.

“Now the country is facing its worst crisis. In this failed state, entire swaths of land are given over to violence by armed gangs. Looting, the recruitment of child soldiers, burned villages, rapes, summary executions” [are commonplace] he said.

The French government are concerned the violence will spread into the surrounding countries, with South Sudan, Congo, Chad and Cameroon likely to be affected.

U.N. deputy general Jan Eliasson has warned the region is descending into “complete chaos before our eyes. The situation requires prompt and decisive action…There is a breakdown of law and order. The population is enduring suffering beyond imagination” he said.

Amnesty International has issued a statement calling on the U.N to take action in the region.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland called on the U.N to “work with other members of the international community, in particular, the African Union, the Economic Community of Central African States, and France to ensure that immediate concrete measures are put in place to establish law and order in the country”.

Since independence in 1960 political instability has been rife in the CAR, with eight coups or mutinies having taking place after the state’s foundation.

Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders is an independent medical humanitarian aid organisation and has been working in the CAR since 1996. It runs seven regular projects in five of the seven health districts and supports up to seven hospitals and around 40 health centres. In 2012, a total of 600,000 consultations were provided.

Emergency Coordinator, Rosa Crestani described the situation in the region: “Our teams who were already present in the country wanted to reinforce their capability to respond quickly to requirements…The aim is to get as soon as possible to areas where a new outbreak of violence has occurred, to assess and meet the needs.”

Joseph Conroy / Simon Maguire