Death threats. Racist taunts. Vows of violence. Inside the increasingly personal attacks targeting Canadian female journalists in the West African nation, some who have been critical of their governments, their people and their policies have turned to death threats, according to a Canadian Press review of dozens of cases. Many of those have been deemed credible, while others have been confirmed as threats by a local government or security agencies and police.
In the heart of the nation’s oil capital of Abidjan, in the capital’s bustling, traffic-clogged, chaotic market-square, a young woman selling fruit on the streets of the city has been targeted, beaten on the head with a metal object, and forced to give it up for lost.
This is how a young woman was attacked by a group of men in the market in 2016:
The incident was detailed in a report by the United Democratic Front for a Free and Fair Congo, which operates inside the country’s legislature. The UDF describes the woman as a journalist, as did the U.S. government, which designated her in 2014 as a journalist in the category. It was not her job to sell fruit, of course, but she was selling, while standing in the streets of the city, things of interest to passersby and locals, as well as a variety of fruits and vegetables available in markets and local stores.
The attack is the latest in an escalating campaign of abuse against female journalists in and around the country’s capital that has become normalized following a violent campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence that began in late August 2016.
It is a situation that has the world’s media asking, “What can be done?” and a country that is already struggling economically is asking how to protect a free press that is essential to a functioning democracy, writes Shaina Maghboule, senior Africa correspondent for The Guardian.
Many cases, she writes, are still unconfirmed and as yet unproved, but there is mounting evidence of abuse directed specifically at women journalists and, in some cases, against members of the public.
An 18-year-old student was stabbed to death by unknown assailants in Abidjan in August 2016. She was the fifth journalist to be killed in the West African nation and the second for Canada in recent months.
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