Newspaper editor Joseph Gnanhoua Titi was released yesterday after an investigating judge dismissed the charges against him. Reporters Without Borders is relieved by this decision but deplores the fact that he was held for six days in complete violation of Côte d’Ivoire’s press law.
Reporters Without Borders is surprised and dismayed to learn that an opposition newspaper editor was placed in pre-trial detention yesterday in Abidjan, although media offences have been decriminalized in Côte d’Ivoire.
Joseph Gnanhoua Titi, the publisher and editor of Aujourd’hui, a daily that supports former President Laurent Gbagbo, is being held in Abidjan’s main prison, known as the Maca, on charges of publishing false news and insulting President Alassane Ouattara.
He is charged in connection with an article on 21 July claiming that a report prepared by the French foreign intelligence agency, the DSGE, accused President Ouattara of embezzling development aid, money laundering and illegal asset transfers. No evidence for the authenticity of this claim has been produced.
“We call on the Ivorian authorities to respect their own laws and to release Joseph Gnanhoua Titi at once,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.
“As media offences have been decriminalized in Côte d’Ivoire, journalists should not be jailed regardless of what they say in their articles. Legal recourse is available if what they publish is regarded as abusive or defamatory.”
The day before his arrest, Titi was questioned for more than eight hours at the headquarters of the gendarmerie’s department of investigations at prosecutor-general Richard Christophe Adou’s request.
Article 68 of Côte d’Ivoire’s press law says: “The penalty of imprisonment is excluded for press offences.” Article 74 on insulting the president, which was cited by the prosecutor, provides for judicial proceedings but not for pre-trial detention.
And only the National Press Council (CNP) – the entity that oversees and regulates the media – is empowered to impose sanctions on journalists when the press law is violated.
This is the second time that opposition journalists have been jailed for insulting Ouattara since he became president. Three Notre Voie journalists – publisher César Etou, assistant editor Didier Dépri and chief political correspondent Boga Sivori – were arrested in November 2011 and were held for 13 days before being tried and acquitted.