JULY 27, 2005
Posted: August 17, 2005
Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI)
A group of armed, uniformed soldiers 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.
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. Bakayoko had recently 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.
The incident followed 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 July 26. A number of the newspapers and their journalists received threats that their headquarters would be burned and their staff killed, according to CPJ sources.
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 in April, 2005, by parties to the conflict, RTI “must be used in favor of unity and national reconciliation.”
On August 14, RTI’s board announced that it was lifting the ban on coverage of political parties, according to local news reports. Speaking on national television, board Chairman Maurice Bandama said this was because the political climate had eased somewhat. However, he urged political parties toward moderation and warned that RTI would not broadcast anything it deemed to be electioneering, since the official election campaign for October polls had not yet started.