Jean Hélène

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Jean Hélène (1955 – 21 October 2003) was a French journalist specializing in Africa. He was working for Radio France Internationale in Ivory Coast when he was killed in Abidjan by police Sergeant Théodore Séry Dago. Jean Hélène was his press name, Christian Baldensberger being his real name.

Controversial Journalism[edit]

Earlier, Jean Hélène had served as the Le Monde correspondent in Rwanda. His coverage of the Rwandan genocide during this period was biased in favour of the Hutus. In particular, during the early months when thousands of civilians were butchered, he characterized the killings as those of enemy combatants. A French court ruling in May 1999 says:

Considering that an examination of the press cuttings entered into evidence shows that during the first two months of the conflict Le Monde, through its correspondent, Jean Helene, highlighted the “civil war” aspect of the conflict...[1]

Possibly this coloured the African perception of Jean Helene, and Voltairenet reports that several African governments had considered him to be an "agent of the French Secret Service". [2]

Murder and Trial[edit]

On 21 October 2003, in a prevailing atmosphere of rabid anti-French sentiment during the Civil war in Côte d'Ivoire, Hélène had gone to the Abidjan police headquarters to interview some government opponents who had just been released from detention. Apparently he had an altercation with Sergeant Dago over parking, following which Dago went inside, grabbed an AK-47 and shot him dead as he was walking from his car, talking on his mobile phone.

Sergeant Dago was immediately arrested and apparently confessed to the crime. Subsequently however, he changed his position claiming that he had come inside the building after talking to Helene when he heard the shots that killed him.

There was wide international condemnation of the event. Amnesty international said:

The fact that a sergeant can kill a journalist who posed no threat to him in cold blood shows the atmosphere of impunity in which Côte d’Ivoire security forces have been operating.[3]

After the event, Théodore Séry Dago became a hero and a Dago support committee was formed. [4] In January 2004, a military court under judge Ahmed Lanzéni Coulibaly considered ballistic evidence which indicated that the bullet had been shot from Dago's service weapon, and found him guilty of having “deliberately killed" Helene. Dago was sentenced to 17 years in prison.


  1. ^ Rosemary Ekosso. "Jean Helene: Anatomy of a Death.". Archived from the original on 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2006-11-30. 
  2. ^ Voltairenet (2003-10-28). "Les non-dits de la chute d’un oligarque". Retrieved 2006-11-30. 
  3. ^ "Côte d'Ivoire : The murder of the RFI journalist, Jean Hélène, illustrates the atmosphere of impunity that reigns in Abidjan" (Press release). Amnesty International. 2003-11-23. Retrieved 2006-10-31. 
  4. ^ Reporters Without Borders. 2003 Global Press Freedom World Tour (pdf). Retrieved 2006-10-31. 

External links[edit]