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France - Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire honour for RFI journalist Jean-Hélène, murdered in 2003

Jean-Hélène in August 2003 in Monrovia , Liberia
Jean-Hélène in August 2003 in Monrovia , Liberia © AFP

Jean-Hélène, journalist at Radio France Internationale until he was shot dead in 2003, has today been awarded a posthumous honour by the authorities in Cote d’Ivoire, exactly ten years after he was killed while on a report in Abidjan.

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He was shot in the head on 21 October 2003, while interviewing activists from the RDR, the party of the current Ivorian president Alassane Ouattara. Police Sergeant Theodore Séri Dago was later given a 17 year prison sentence for his murder.

Jean-Hélène was today posthumously made Officer of the National Order of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, one of the country’s highest honours, at a ceremony in Abidjan attended by the Grand Chancellor, Henriette Diabaté.

The distinguished French journalist’s brother, Thierry Baldensperger, accepted the award on his behalf.

Jean-Hélène’s real name was Christian Baldensperger but he also had a nickname: “the African” because he so loved the continent, where he had covered many tumultuous events, notably in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Rwanda.

“Jean-Hélène was killed because he believed in real liberty”, said Communications Minister Affoussiata Bamba at today’s ceremony. “He felt a real mission to tell the truth about what he saw and heard.”

“There are wounds which never quite heal,” declared RFI Director General Marie-Christine Saragosse. “This is a move which helps bring the calm and healing which we feel we need ten years on,” she said.

Here in the headquarters of RFI just outside Paris, Studio 32 has been renamed the Jean-Héléne Studio.

 

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