Thursday, September 19, 2019
On Thursday September 19th, two suspects from the Central African Republic (CAR) will appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the first main hearing in their case. Free Press Unlimited brought two journalists from local media outlets in CAR to The Hague to help them keep victims and affected communities informed about what happens in the court.

An ongoing conflict has left the Central African Republic deeply scarred. Perpetrators of egregious crimes must be brought to justice to help end violence in the country.

With support from Free Press Unlimited, two local journalists from CAR will attend the confirmation of charges hearing in the case against two Central African figures accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence against the accused persons to bring the case to trial.

Vivien Ngalangou, a journalist at the Network of Journalists for Human Rights in Bangui, and Inès Laure N’gopot, who works for Radio Ndeke Luka, were selected by Free Press Unlimited from the network of journalists we work with in CAR.

Eyes, voices and ears

“It is important for our communities to know the truth about the beginning and the end of this hearing. We are their eyes, their voices and their ears,” Ngalangou said. “Sometimes, the work of the ICC is misinterpreted and people say they are not impartial. This hearing will allow us to see and touch how ICC works and organises these trials.”

N’gopot added: “The Central African population in general and the victims in particular expect that justice is done both internationally and nationally.”

To strengthen their reporting, the journalists will receive training on international law and the inner workings of the ICC from Journalists for Justice. Thomas Verfuss, a training editor at Journalists for Justice, will coach Ngalangou and N'gopot during their visit. “The reporters need to know the law that underpins the functioning of the criminal court. They also have to get to know the procedures and the organs of the court, which can be very different from what they’re used to at home,” he said.

Dispel misinformation

Maxence Peniguet, who coordinates this project at Free Press Unlimited, believes that flying in the journalists can dispel misinformation. “Journalists and people around the world often lack the knowledge to understand and cover cases at [the ICC] – sometimes leading to biased information and rumours,” he said. “In CAR, where the court is pursuing its second investigation, it is crucial that the public is well-informed to contribute to ending the cycle of violence.”

Free Press Unlimited has supported in 14 community radio stations in CAR since 2014. Last year, we helped restore a community radio station to the airwaves after its antenna broke down.

Photo: Jeppe Schilder