Côte d’Ivoire reporter pressured to name his sources
After being pressured to reveal his sources during interrogations in Daoukro, a town in central Côte d’Ivoire, on 30 June, and in Abidjan two weeks later, investigative reporter Noël Konan was held overnight by the police. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) deplores the use of such methods and urges the authorities to respect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.
Konan refused to name his sources for a tweet about an alleged theft from a bank’s branch in Daoukro, for which he was finally fined 3 million CFA francs (4,500 euros) at a hearing in Abidjan on 18 July as a result of a defamation suit by the bank, NSIA Banque. He plans to appeal.
Now a freelancer, Konan used to work for the newspaper L'Eléphant Déchaîné and has participated in several international investigations including the Pandora Papers, West Africa Leaks and FinCen Files – a leak from the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that was investigated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
“The proceedings against Noël Konan were prejudiced from the start because he was taken into police custody and Côte d’Ivoire’s law forbids detaining journalists for press offences,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “The irregularities that have marked this case will not reassure journalists who are trying to do investigative reporting and to protect their sources.”
The head of the local NSIA Banque branch and the local police chief tried to get Konan to name his sources for the tweet during an initial informal interrogation in Daoukro on 3 June that lasted two hours.
“The Daoukro police commissioner and the head of the branch asked me to reveal the sources for my information and their intention, which I refused to do,” Konan said. “They kept at it for two hours insisting that I reveal my sources to them (…) They then forced me to go with them to the police station, where I was interviewed without any lawyer being present.”
RSF condemns the use of such methods and reminds the authorities that source confidentiality is one of press freedom’s most important pillars.
After a second interrogation in Abidjan on 13 July, at which he again refused to name his sources, Konan was taken into police custody and was not released until the next morning.
RSF is of the view that he should never have been taken into police custody. According to article 89 of Côte d’Ivoire’s press law, preventive detention and imprisonment are prohibited for “offenses committed via the press or any other means of publication, subject to any other applicable legal provision.”
Côte d’Ivoire is ranked 37th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2022 World Press Freedom Index.