“Telling The Story: Remembering Elisabeth Blanche Olofio” is the third in a series of investigations under the A Safer World For The Truth initiative, a project led by leading press freedom organizations Free Press Unlimited, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists. which investigates murders and holds governments accountable through the People’s Court on the Killing of Journalists.
Working for radio station Radio Be Oko (“One Heart”), Elisabeth’s reporting exposed local corruption and human rights abuses in the Central African Republic. At the time, Elisabeth was providing her community with crucial information about the ongoing rebel advance. On January 5, 2013, she was severely beaten, tortured and raped by Seleka rebels in her hometown of Bambari in connection with her reporting.
She suffered sustained psychological and physical trauma and succumbed to her injuries in June 2014. Elisabeth was 34 years old.
The report argues that local journalists like Elisabeth play an important role in reporting on conflict in their communities and to international audiences. In some cases, they are the only source of information in an area. For this reason, local journalists, as key informants, are often targeted by warring parties in an effort to silence them, with female journalists in particular facing an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
The investigation reveals potential suspects responsible for Elisabeth’s torture, rape and death, and how those responsible escaped responsibility, as well as documentation of the suffering Elisabeth endured as a result of the attack.
The report argues that the Prosecutor of the Special Criminal Court should immediately open an investigation into crimes against journalists committed by all warring parties in the Central African Republic since 2012, in accordance with the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity (2012).
The investigation further shows how plans to evacuate Elisabeth to a safe environment outside the Central African Republic fell through due to issues with her official documents.
After a year and a half of suffering, Elisabeth succumbed to her injuries in June 2014. This report urges states to prioritize and arrange emergency visas for at-risk local journalists, including granting visas to immediate family members. To prevent murders of journalists and help them escape possible attacks, as happened in the case of Elisabeth. Emergency visas could be made available to the relatively small group of journalists around the world who are life-threatening and eligible for this support.
Jens Kiesheyer, Africa and Levant Team Leader, Free Press Unlimited (FPU), says:
“Elisabeth was a brave journalist whose death could probably have been avoided. We urge states to open their doors to those who risk their lives every day to inform us. »
Angela Quintal, Africa Program Coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), says:
“The attack on journalist Elisabeth Blanche Olofio highlights the dangers for journalists working in the Central African Republic and thorough investigations into her death and the murders of other journalists in the country are essential to combat the prevailing impunity. Impunity for the killings of journalists only compounds the already extremely high risks of reporting amid unrest and armed conflict.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), says:
“Elisabeth’s story rings loud and clear: we must do more to protect journalists. In this case, working together to end impunity, by advocating for better protection of journalists is essential. States providing emergency visas to the small group of journalists who urgently need them would be an essential first step in the right direction.”
Previous investigations and recommendations are available at https://www.saferworldforthetruth.com/investigations