After the disputed November 2010 presidential elections, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara, whom the United Nations recognized as the winner, waged a months-long struggle for power led by partisan media outlets. The fight was centered in the economic capital, Abidjan, where Gbagbo controlled the national media and security forces. Ouattara enjoyed the support of a handful of newspapers and set up an improvised television station in the hotel where he was protected by U.N. peacekeepers. Both sides targeted rival outlets with reprisals, forcing numerous journalists into hiding. A journalist and a media worker were murdered in the violence. Fighters loyal to Ouattara clashed with Gbagbo troops for control of the national public broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne in March and April, damaging studios and transmitters and knocking the station off the air, according to news reports and local journalists. While media movements were limited during the final battle for Abidjan, some citizen journalists provided exclusive footage of explosions and military operations by posting unedited videos on social media. With Gbagbo's April 11 capture, Ouattara assumed power and promised reconciliation, but his administration jailed a pro-Gbagbo TV host on antistate charges and his forces ransacked and occupied media outlets loyal to the former president. Journalists seen as sympathetic to Gbagbo faced continued harassment.
With the assistance of CPJ and the local Ivorian Committee to Protect Journalists, the U.N. peacekeeping force airlifted journalists trapped by heavy fighting in Abidjan to the northern city of Bouaké on March 30. All of the journalists resumed work after the fighting ended, but some faced continuing reprisals from the new government.
CPJ documented dozens of assaults, detentions, threats, instances of censorship, kidnappings, and murders of journalists stemming from the presidential standoff that ended in April.
Attacks by month:
A journalist and a media worker, both working for pro-Gbagbo outlets, were murdered by Ouattara supporters.
Two politically inspired killings:
February 28, 2011: A mob of Ouattara supporters dragged Marcel Legré, a printing press employee for La Refondation, publisher of the pro-Gbagbo newspaper Notre Voie, out of his home and hacked him to death in the Abidjan suburb of Koumassi.
May 8, 2011: Forces loyal to Ouattara killed Sylvain Gagnetau Lago, an assistant editor with community station Radio Yopougon, during a sweep in the Yopougon district of Abidjan, a former stronghold of Gbagbo.
The most prominent detainee was former state journalist Hermann Aboa, host of a political talk show that had favored Gbagbo. In July, he was imprisoned on antistate crimes. Authorities had not disclosed evidence to back the charges as of late year.
Timeline in the Aboa case:
April 11, 2011: Aboa fled to Ghana on the day Gbagbo was captured.
April-May: Ouattara government officials assured CPJ that pro-Gbagbo media outlets and journalists had nothing to fear.
June 13: A state prosecutor froze the assets of 97 people accused of supporting Gbagbo, including Aboa, according to news reports.
June 14: Aboa returned to Ivory Coast, heeding Ouattara’s call for exiles to return.
July 21: Aboa was arrested on antistate charges after filing a petition to unfreeze assets.
July 27: In a press conference at U.N. headquarters, Ouattara accused Aboa of hosting a program that “called on hate, hatred.” CPJ found the accusations baseless after reviewing footage of Aboa’s program.
On April 16, 2004, Franco-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer disappeared from a parking lot in Abidjan while investigating corruption in the country's lucrative cocoa export industry. Kieffer has never been located.
Timeline in the Kieffer case:
May 25, 2004: After the opening of a French judicial inquiry, Ivorian authorities charged Michel Legré as an accessory in the disappearance of Kieffer. Legré was the brother-in-law of Simone Gbagbo, Ivory Coast's first lady at the time. Kieffer was on his way to meet Legré when he was kidnapped, according to new reports.
January-February 2006: French authorities detained former Ivorian army officer Jean-Tony Oulaï on suspicion of involvement in Kieffer's disappearance.
August 23, 2007: France 3 interviewed Berté Seydou, who claimed he was the driver for an army commando unit led by Legré that kidnapped Kieffer. Ivorian prosecutor Raymond Tchimou denied government involvement in the disappearance.
April 2009: French investigating magistrates questioned Simone Gbagbo and several other officials, according to news reports.
April 2010: A French court dismissed the case against Oulaï, according to news reports.
April 13, 2011: Ally Coulibaly, the ambassador to France, pledged the Ouattara government would do everything in its power to solve the disappearance.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.