IFJ Calls for Fair Trial for Journalists Accused of Offending Ivory Coast President

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today urged judicial authorities to hold a fair trial for journalists accused of an offence against the President of the Ivory Coast after they implicated his wife in a toxic-waste-dumping scandal.

The accused, editor Coulibaly Seydou and journalist Edouard Gonto, will be tried on charges related to a story that ran in their private Ivory Coast daily newspaper Le Jour Plus, which implicated the first lady in the dumping of chemical waste in Abidjan.

The two journalists were taken into custody on Tuesday, 12 September, and held for 24 hours. After a first appearance yesterday, they will appear in court again on Friday with Frederic Koffi, the editor-in-chief of Le Jour Plus.

“We condemn this completely useless detention, which is a clear attempt to intimidate our two colleagues,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “We ask the justice system of Ivory Coast not to be carried by the passion which surrounds the tragedy so that the journalists can have a fair and equitable trial.”

On Tuesday, Seydou and Gonto were summoned by Prosecutor Raymond Tchimou and taken into custody by the Gendarme’s Brigade of Abidjan. Wednesday, the journalists appeared before the president of the court, Togbo Yapi, to face the charges against them.

“They are accusing our newspaper of having offended the Head of State in an article published Monday, which revealed that his wife facilitated the creation of the company that took delivery of the toxic waste poured in Abidjan,” Le Jour Plus’s Koffi told the IFJ.

According to the current press law voted in 2005, the journalists are prevented from being jailed, if they are found guilty” said the newspaper's lawyer Bléoué Aka. “They could be given a fine between 10 and 20 million Francs CFA (15,300 and 30,600 euros)” Aka said.

In the Monday, 11 September, edition of Le Jour Plus, Gonto wrote a bylined article that claimed President Laurent Gbagbo’s wife, Simone Gbagbo, was involved in the chemical waste scandal at the end of August. The article states that the First Lady is among the close relations of the President who reassured him "that it is not a question of toxic waste."

This waste dumped in Abidjan has already killed six people.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries