French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday slammed the irresponsible behaviour of certain Ivorian leaders and demanded that the policeman who killed the Radio France Internationale correspondent Jean Helene be given exemplary punishment.

"I call very firmly … for the Ivorian authorities to come to their senses a little and to first put an end to these hotbeds of hatred and aggression," Chirac said.

Helene, 50, was shot dead in the head by Sergeant Theodore Sery after an argument near the national police headquarters in Abidjan on Tuesday as he waited to interview a group of arrested opposition activists.

"This monstrous killing is in reality an illustration of the old principle whereby he who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind," Chirac said.

Intimidation

Foreign and especially French journalists have been subject to harassment from officials and security forces in the former French colony since September last year, when a rebellion effectively cut the country into two.

"I call very firmly…for the Ivorian authorities to come to their senses a little and to first put an end to these hotbeds of hatred and aggression"

Jacques Chirac
French President

Some 3,800 French troops are currently policing a buffer zone between the two sides.

The London-based rights group Amnesty International said the killing of Helene showed the "atmosphere of impunity" in which Ivorian security forces were operating.

Helene's body was flown back to France abroad a French military plane. He is due to be buried in his hometown of Mulhouse in eastern France.

Foreign journalists accuse the pro-government press in Ivory Coast of stirring up resentment against foreign media by accusing them of backing the rebels.

Earlier this week, Paris-based lobby group Reporters sans Frontieres placed Ivory Coast at 137 out of 166 countries in its press freedom ranking.