Côte d’Ivoire’s media landscape is among the most politicised and polarised in West Africa. Journalists are sometimes summoned for questioning by prosecutors, and some are subjected to physical or verbal attacks. It is not uncommon for newspapers to be suspended.
With at least 190 authorised stations, radio is the most popular medium. Most of the country’s approximately 100 newspapers and news sites have a strong political bias, which is signalled on newsstands by the colour of the publications: green for those that support the ruling party, and blue for those that support the opposition. The latter have been in decline in recent years, although Le Temps and La Voie originale are still published with some regularity. In a highly polarised media landscape, investigative journalism is a minor presence next to “opinion journalism”. The advent of the first privately owned TV channels in 2019 ended a more than 50-year monopoly of Radiodiffusion télévision ivoirienne (RTI). The country now has three private TV channels, all owned by supporters of the ruling party.
Press freedom is still closely tied to the political environment. Some political parties and leaders still exert considerable influence on the media. RTI, the state-owned broadcaster, continues to act as the public relations branch of the government and president.
Under Côte d’Ivoire law, press offences are not punishable by imprisonment but it is still a crime to insult the president. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression, and the 2017 press law protects journalists’ sources. The print and online media are regulated by the National Press Authority (ANP), and radio and television by the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA). The ANP can suspend a newspaper and ban its director from publishing for three months, as was seen in April 2023.
Newspaper sales are down and editorial staff are shrinking. Some national dailies that printed tens of thousands of copies 20 years ago now rarely sell more than 2,000 a day. In 2021, L’Eléphant dechaîné (The Unleashed Elephant), an investigative weekly, announced that it was terminating its print edition to become an online newspaper. Privately owned TV channels rely on advertising for their survival but the advertising market was valued at 15 to 18 million euros in 2021, which they say is completely inadequate.
For cultural reasons, the Ivorian media do not openly address sexual orientation issues.
Investigative reporters are often the target of bribery, intimidation, and arrests, and their media outlet’s offices may be attacked. But in general, all journalists face security problems in connection with their work, from both political party activists and law enforcement.