Three journalists from the opposition newspaper Notre Voie, publisher César Etou, assistant editor Didier Dépry and chief political correspondent Boga Sivori, were cleared today of charges of inciting theft, looting and destruction of property, after spending 13 days in custody.
The wording of the allegations was changed by the prosecution to press offences, which are no longer a crime in Côte d'Ivoire under a media law passed in 2004. The judge who presided at the summary hearing, Philippe Kouamé Yao, dismissed the case.
“We are satisfied with this logical outcome and appeal to the authorities to treat all cases concerning the press in accordance with the 2004 law,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“With this in mind, Hermann Aboa, a journalist with RTI who has been in prison for more than four months, should also be released.”
2.12.11 - Three Notre Voie journalists charged and transferred to prison
The three journalists with the opposition newspaper Notre Voie who were arrested on 24 November – publisher César Etou, assistant editor Didier Dépry and chief political correspondent Boga Sivori – were charged yesterday with “inciting theft, looting and destruction of property via the media.”
“Three more journalists have been formally charged and transferred to Abidjan’s main prison, to join TV presenter Hermann Aboa, who has been there for more than four months,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Are Côte d'Ivoire’s new authorities, the ones loyal to President Alassane Ouattara, trying to outdo the previous regime’s misdeeds?
“Does writing about the cars provided to government officials really constitute ‘incitement to loot’? And why do the pro-government media’s excesses never give rise to any warnings from the authorities? The haste to punish the opposition media is indicative at best of a desire to silence them and at worse of a desire to exact revenge.”
See also an article in French on the JeuneAfrique.com website.
25.11.11 - Three journalists from daily Notre Voie taken into custody
Reporters Without Borders is shocked to learn that three journalists from the daily Notre Voie, which is close to former President Laurent Gbagbo, were taken into police custody yesterday on suspicion of insulting the head of state and harming the national economy.
The organization condemns this latest attack on press freedom and calls for the immediate release of these reporters in accordance with Ivorian laws.
The publisher, César Etou, and the chief political correspondent, Boga Sivori, were taken in for questioning about an article that appeared in the newspaper three days earlier about 40 new Mercedes official cars made available to members of the government.
The assistant editor, Didier Dépry, was questioned about a story that appeared on the newspaper’s front page yesterday saying the CFA franc was about to be devalued.
23.11.11 - Jailed journalist Aboa denied bail, others summoned and threatened
Press freedom in Côte d’Ivoire remains a cause of serious concern seven months after President Alassane Ouattara came to power.
An application for bail by television journalist Hermann Aboa, arrested four months ago and still held in pre-trial detention, was refused two days ago and other media workers have been threatened by officials and police in recent weeks.
“Since Alassane Ouattara took office in April, Ivorian authorities have failed to demonstrate respect for freedom of the press,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Some projects are progressing in the right direction, such as the liberalisation of radio and television, but serious infringements are still taking place. Television journalist Hermann Aboa has been in prison for more than four months, even though media law protects journalists from imprisonment.
“Other media workers have been threatened, sometimes directly by members of the government. The opposition press is placed under the power's microscope.”
Aboa’s lawyer had applied for bail on 14 November and two days ago an examining judge in the Plateau district of Abidjan, Kouakou N’Goran, issued orders keeping the journalist in prison for the rest of the judicial investigation. His defence counsel immediately petitioned the state prosecutor and made a new bail application.
Aboa, a journalist with RTI 1, the main channel of Ivorian national television, remains on remand in the House of Arrest and Correction in Abidjan. He has been held in custody since his arrest on 21 July and faces six charges, for which he could be imprisoned for life if convicted. See details here.
Achille Kpan, a correspondent for the daily L’Inter, received verbal threats on 14 November from the minister of crafts, Konaté Sidiki, who accused him of transcribing hateful things he said at a pre-campaign meeting for the legislative elections in the western town of Man.
Shortly after these threats, some members of the Côte d'Ivoire Republican Forces, led by Mara Lanciné, head of the local youth organization and communications chief of the former warlord Losseni Fofana, drove to the press centre in Man in a military vehicle in search of Kpan. The journalist was forced to seek refuge in a safe place.
Sidiki also invited the editor of L’Inter, Félix Bony, to his office to “bring him up to date with developments”.
The publisher of the daily Notre Voie, César Etou, and one of its journalists, Boga Sivori, have been summoned by the police tomorrow to explain an article in the newspaper about the new official Mercedes cars that the government has issued to its ministers.