Ivory Coast's Ouattara must end persecution of journalists

July 26, 2011 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon 
United Nations Headquarters 
New York, NY 10017 

Via facsimile: 212-963-2155 

Dear Secretary-General Ban:

Ahead of your Wednesday meeting with new Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, and given your express commitment to make press freedom a priority during your second term as United Nations secretary-general, we call on you to urge Ouattara to reinforce the rule of law, the impartiality of justice, and the promotion of national reconciliation by ending the persecution of journalists and media outlets that were favorable to former leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Since July 21, Ouattara's authorities have been holding Hermann Aboa, a television journalist with national public broadcaster RTI, on a slew of anti-state charges--including incitement to hatred and endangering state security--over his role as one of four moderators of a Gbagbo-leaning political talk show entitled Raison d'État (National Interest) during the five-month political crisis. Accusations of incitement and endangering state security should not be trivialized, and after viewing footage of the program, CPJ believes that the charges against Aboa are baseless and his prosecution selective and motivated by political revenge.  

Ouattara's government has also detained for weeks six other journalists, former journalists, and media personalities on similar anti-state charges allegedly for their militancy in favor of Gbagbo.

Finally, pro-Ouattara Ivory Coast Republican Forces (FRCI) fighters have illegally occupied the premises of two pro-Gbagbo media outlets, Radio Yopougon and La Refondation media group, since they captured Abidjan. FRCI fighters have also been involved in acts of armed robbery, intimidation of pro-Gbagbo journalists, and the murder of Radio Yopougon Assistant Editor-in-Chief Sylvain Gagnetaud Lago, according to CPJ research and local journalists.

Both sides of the Ivorian conflict committed abuses against the press during the political crisis. Ouattara came to office with rhetoric of national reconciliation, yet his government is instead persecuting former critics in the rival press.

We call on you to encourage Ouattara to make his rhetoric reality by ending the politicized prosecution of journalists favorable to Gbagbo, and deliver on his pledge to hold to account the members of his administration and security forces implicated in occupying media outlets and harassing journalists. 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

Joel Simon
Executive Director

July 26, 2011 2:58 PM ET | | Also in Français

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