Freedom of the Press 2010
- Although the constitution provides for freedom of the press, the government has restricted media freedom in the name of patriotism and national unity since the onset of civil conflict in 2002. Even after the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement between the government and the rebel New Forces, national reconciliation has remained incomplete, elections have been repeatedly postponed, and the government continues to harass, intimidate, and jail journalists reporting on sensitive topics.
- With widespread self-censorship and vitriolic rhetoric in both the opposition and progovernment private press, international concerns over xenophobia and hate speech in the Ivorian media remain acute. However, such content has been less prevalent in recent years, partly due to a 2008 ban on expressions of xenophobia, racism, or tribalism. Although it was ostensibly meant to protect victims of hate speech, international press freedom groups have raised concerns that the ban’s imprecise wording could enable the government to abuse it in the future.
- Journalists who report critically about government officials often face defamation suits, and a number were forced to pay fines for such offenses in 2009. Two journalists with the opposition Le Repere were put in pretrial detention in March, in violation of a 2004 press law, after being accused of defaming the president. They were later fined US$45,000 each by the court, which also temporarily suspended the paper’s publication. Similarly, in October Le Nouveau Reveil was fined US$10,000 for defaming the prime minister.
- The government’s relationship with France improved slightly in 2009 following the May release of French freelance photojournalist Jean-Paul Ney, who had been imprisoned since December 2007 on charges of threatening state security. Radio France Internationale was also able to broadcast uninterrupted throughout the year, a notable change from 2008.
- There were fewer reports of harassment and violence against journalists in 2009 than in previous years. However, members of the National Union of University Students of Ivory Coast, a frequently violent progovernment student group, reportedly attacked the offices of Le Reveil in October over an article that was critical of their former leader.
- The government maintains tight control over the state-run media, which comprise the largest radio stations (including the only one with national reach), the largest daily newspaper, and all television stations.
- No private terrestrial television stations are able to operate in Cote d’Ivoire, but there are more than 100 low-power, noncommercial community radio stations. Content is restricted by broadcast regulations that prohibit political commentary.
- The internet is not restricted by the government, but in December 2008 the editor of the internet-based news agency Alerte Info was detained for four days while covering a prison riot. Due to poverty and infrastructural limitations, less than five percent of the population was able to access the internet in 2009.