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Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Ivory Coast

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1997
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Ivory Coast, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5650728.html [accessed 10 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Despite significant restrictions on press freedom, and the threat of seditious libel charges, the Ivoirien independent press continues to publish articles critical of President Konan Bédié and his government's policies. President Bédié has little tolerance for what he considers "insults or attacks on the honor of the country's highest officials," and he is strictly enforcing the penalty for the "crime" of critical reporting: a three-month -to-two-year prison term for offending the president, the prime minister, foreign chiefs of state, or their diplomatic representatives, or defaming state institutions.

Opposition newspapers such as La Voie are routinely hauled into court to face defamation charges. In December, La Voie publisher Abou Drahamane Sangaré, deputy editor Freedom Neruda, and reporter Emmanuel Koré completed the first year of their two-year prison terms for insulting the president. In August, Bédié had offered the journalists a presidential pardon, which they refused, choosing instead to challenge the outstanding charges against them in the Supreme Court. With a severely compromised judiciary on his side, Bédié has succeeded in keeping the case out of the courts and, to date, the journalists have been refused a court date to file their appeal.

The state owns both television channels and two major radio stations, which are used to promote government policies; only the primary government radio and television stations are broadcast nationwide. Currently, four independent radio stations and a private television subscription service, Canal Horizon, broadcast primarily in the Abidjan metropolitan area.

January 2
Freedom Neruda, La Voie, IMPRISONED

Neruda, deputy editor of the independent opposition daily La Voie, was taken into custody for questioning. Police had been searching for him since the December 1995 arrest of his colleagues Abou Drahamane Sangaré, the publications director of the Nouvel Horizon group, which owns La Voie, and Emmanuel Koré, a La Voie reporter. On Jan. 3, Neruda was charged with insulting the head of state in connection with a satirical article published in La Voie suggesting that President Henri Konan Bédié's presence at the African Champions Cup final brought bad luck to the Ivorian soccer team, which lost to South Africa's Orlando Pirates. On Jan. 11, Neruda was sentenced to two years in prison and fined CFA 6 million (US$12, 000). CPJ wrote to President Bédié on two occasions: first, to protest Neruda's arrest, and second, to condemn his sentencing and urge the president to revoke it along with the other two-year prison sentences handed down to Sangaré and Koré for "offending the chief of state." On June 12, an appeals court confirmed the sentences and Neruda and his colleagues filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. CPJ again wrote to Bédié and called for the reversal of the convictions and the immediate release of Neruda, Sangaré, and Koré. They were released on Jan. 1, 1997.

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