Freedom of the Press 2009

  • Although the constitution provides for freedom of the press, since the onset of civil conflict in 2002, the government has restricted media freedom in the name of patriotism and national unity. Even after the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) between the government and the rebel New Forces (FN), national reconciliation is incomplete, elections scheduled for November 2008 had to be postponed, and the government continues to harass, intimidate, and jail journalists reporting on sensitive topics.
  • In August, a new law criminalized racism, xenophobia, and tribalism in the media and elsewhere, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. While the measure would help to protect victims of hate crimes, the imprecision with which it was written raised the possibility that it could jeopardize freedom of expression.
  • Journalists face the persistent threat of defamation suits for writing critically about the government. In January, a human rights activist who had written an article about judicial corruption was accused of libeling the prosecutor’s office and sentenced to one year in prison.
  • During the year, the government continued its acrimonious relationship with France. It banned the FM broadcast of Radio France Internationale (RFI), allegedly because the network failed to appoint a permanent correspondent for Cote d’Ivoire. While the government has also accused RFI of “unethical” coverage, it lifted the ban in May after a permanent correspondent was appointed.
  • In addition, a French freelance photojournalist has been in prison since December 2007 on charges of threatening state security, and the wife and associates of President Laurent Gbagbo refuse to cooperate with the French investigation into the 2004 disappearance of Canadian-French journalist Guy-Andre Kieffer while working in Abidjan.
  • There were reports of continuing harassment and violence against journalists, especially those working for opposition newspapers. The government’s use of both legal and extralegal means to intimidate and punish critics fostered widespread self-censorship.
  • The government maintains control over the state-run media with a heavy hand, running two major radio stations—one of which is the only national station—as well as the country’s largest daily newspaper by circulation.
  • No private terrestrial television stations are able to operate in Cote d’Ivoire, but more than 100 low-power, noncommercial community radio stations are able to operate freely. Content is restricted by broadcast regulations prohibiting political commentary.
  • The internet is not restricted by the government, but due to poverty and infrastructural limitations, less than 2 percent of the population was able to access the medium in 2008.

2009 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score


Political Environment


Economic Environment