New York, July 28, 2005—A group of armed, uniformed soldiers yesterday stormed the Abidjan offices of state broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) and instructed directors not to broadcast footage of opposition members, according to CPJ sources and local news reports. The soldiers identified themselves as members of the Republican Guard but refused to give their names, the sources reported.
A CPJ source said that the ban extended to members of a coalition of opposition parties and former rebels known as the G-7; to members of an alliance headed by opposition Rassemblement des Républicains (RDR) leader Alassane Ouattara and former president Henri Konan Bedié; and to Hamed Bakayoko, an RDR minister in the current power-sharing government. This week, Bakayoko requested that he be allowed to respond on national television to criticisms leveled against him by members of President Laurent Gbagbo’s Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI) party.
It was unclear who had ordered the soldiers’ action. In response, RTI’s general manager, Kébé Yacouba, announced that RTI would bar coverage of all political parties, including the ruling FPI.
“This move to censor the national broadcaster is outrageous,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “RTI must act as a balanced and reliable source of information, especially in this period of political transition leading up to elections scheduled for October.”
The incident follows threats against private media and journalists by the pro-FPI Young Patriots militia, which harassed distributors and vendors, and forced the evacuations of some newspaper offices on Tuesday, July 26. A number of the newspapers and their journalists received threats that their headquarters would be burned down and their staff killed, according to CPJ sources. For more information on this incident, click on www.cpj.org/news/2005/Ivory26july05na.html.
Ivory Coast has been divided between a rebel-held north and a government-held south since civil war broke out in 2002. Under the Pretoria peace agreement signed this April by parties to the conflict, RTI “must be used in favor of unity and national reconciliation.”