IFJ Condemns Government Censorship as the Media Comes Under Fire in the Ivory Coast

The International Federation of Journalists condemned the Ivorian authorities over driving an already explosive political situation over the edge following a government ban on eight newspapers and “gang attacks” against several private newspapers in Abidjan.

Last Thursday, an offical from President Gbagbo’s government delivered a list of eight banned newspapers to the distribution company Edipresse - Le Patriote, 24 Heures, le Nouveau Réveil, le Libéral Nouveau, Le Front, Ivoire Matin, Le Journal des Journeaux and Le Jour Plus.

Earlier the same day, close to 200 armed youths, calling themselves the “young patriots” had attacked four of these listed private dailies Le Patriote, 24 Heures, Le Nouveau Réveil and Le Libéral Nouveau, looting and destroying equipment and documents. Staff at these newspapers say they have received threats accusing them of supporting the rebels, and have confirmed that they cannot currently publish reports.

“Declaring war on journalists and press freedom is no solution to the problem of civil unrest,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The crisis in the Ivory Coast will not be solved by draconian actions against independent press and professional journalists”.

The government bans came less than 24 hours after ‘unidentified means’ were used to sabotage the FM transmitters of international radio stations Radio France Internationale (RFI), BBC and Africa No. 1, silencing their FM broadcasts in Abidjan. A similar situation occurred on March 25 this year, when these same stations went off air during a series of violent outbursts which saw the death of close to 120 people by government forces.

The IFJ is supporting its affiliate, the Union nationale des journalistes de Côte d'Ivoire (UNJCI), who strongly condemn these “violent attacks” on the media and who are calling for an end to targeting of the media in the Ivory Coast.

“The government of the Ivory Coast must respect international standards and the international community, particularly represented by the government of France, has a responsibility to make sure that the government in Abidjan respects the rights of independent media,” said White.

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