On March 31, 2009, in the commercial city of Abidjan, Judge Aissata Koné convicted Op-Ed Editor Nanankoua Gnamenteh and Managing Editor Eddy Péhé of private weekly Le Repère of charges of “offending the head of state” over an article in early March that was critical of President Laurent Gbagbo, according to local media reports.
Koné sentenced Gnamanteh and Péhé to fines of 20 million CFA francs (US$40,500 dollars) each. Le Repère was also suspended for eight editions.
The judge ordered Gnamanteh released from prison after 14 days in pretrial detention. The jailing appeared to violate the 2004 Ivorian press law, which decriminalized press offenses and banned pretrial detention of journalists. In the ruling, the judge overturned the public prosecutor’s determination that Gnamanteh was not a professional journalist and, thus, could be jailed.
Le Repère Editor-in-Chief Akouala Sinclair told CPJ that the newspaper appealed the sentence. He said the newspaper would publish on its normal schedule and would not pay fines until the appeal was decided.