French broadcaster allowed back on-air

May 12, 2006
Original Case: July 13, 2005

Radio France Internationale (RFI)


On May 12, Ivory Coast’s National Council on Audiovisual Communication (CNCA), a media regulatory agency, lifted a 10-month ban on RFI’s FM broadcasts in Abidjan following negotiations between the two sides. The CNCA had banned RFI on July 13, 2005, accusing the France-based broadcaster of biased and unethical reporting. At the time, the council ordered RFI to pay a fine of nine million CFA francs (US$17,619) and to retract two allegedly erroneous reports. RFI declined to do either.

RFI’s FM broadcasts began again on the morning of May 17, 2006, a local journalist told CPJ. An RFI source familiar with the recent negotiations confirmed media reports that the broadcaster had agreed to pay nine million CFA francs to Ivoirian authorities as part of the agreement. However, the source said that this was not considered a fine; that RFI continued to stand by its reporting; and that the broadcaster did not admit any wrongdoing.

RFI also agreed to recruit a local correspondent in Abidjan “as soon as possible,” the RFI source confirmed. There was no deadline for doing so, the source said. RFI has had no full-time correspondent in Abidjan since RFI journalist Jean Hélène was shot dead by an Ivoirian police officer in October 2003.

Anti-French sentiment runs high in Ivory Coast, a former French colony that has been split between a government-held south and rebel-held north since an uprising in 2002. Supporters of Ivory Coast’s government have accused RFI of bias in favor of the opposition and the rebels, and of carrying French government propaganda. On May 13, an article in Notre Voie, a local newspaper that serves as a mouthpiece for President Laurent Gbagbo’s party, attacked RFI as having shown a “manifest intention to destroy Ivory Coast.” RFI rejects the accusations.