Journalist granted provisional release, now fears for his safety

New York, August 3, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has learned that imprisoned Ivoirian journalist Gaston Bony, publication director of the weekly newspaper Le Venin and a host at the radio station La Voix de l’Agnéby, was provisionally released on July 28.

Bony had served more than four months of a six-month sentence for criminal defamation. The journalist told CPJ today that his health sharply deteriorated in jail, and that he has been repeatedly threatened with death unless he leaves his town of Agboville, 37 miles (60 kilometers) north of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan. Bony says he has informed the police of threats, but that they have taken no action.

On March 24, a court in Agboville sentenced Bony to six months in prison and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (US$92). Agboville Mayor Tetchi Chiedou Claude pressed the charges against the journalist after he accused the mayor of corruption in a February 23 Le Venin article, according to local sources.

On July 28, a court granted Bony’s provisional release. His lawyer, Gohi Bi Raoul, said he also argued for Bony’s release on the basis of his health problems. An appeal will be heard on October 16.

Bony told CPJ he has a heart problem and has been seriously weakened by unsanitary conditions and a lack of medical care in prison. In June, he was brought to court to face new defamation charges stemming from another article in Le Venin, which were subsequently dropped. During the proceedings, he fell ill and later had to have an appendectomy..