French journalist released after 17 months in prison

On May 7, 2009, the Court of Criminal Appeal in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, confirmed the provisional release of French freelance photojournalist Jean Paul Ney, who had been detained on anti-state charges since December 2007 in the Maison d’Arrêt et de Correction d’Abidjan prison. French Secretary of State for Cooperation and Francophone Countries Alain Joyandet announced the release on May 6, after a meeting with President Laurent Gbagbo at his residence in the administrative capital, Yamoussoukro. A lower court had already decided on March 20 to release Ney on bail, but the public prosecutor had appealed the ruling.  

Ney’s lawyer, Minta Traoré, told CPJ that the journalist was free to leave the country, but charges against him remained in place. Ney faces charges of “disturbing public order,” “participation in an armed gang,” and “failing to denounce actions likely to undermine national defense,” following his arrest on December 27, 2007, according to Traoré.

In an exclusive March interview from prison with the French daily L’Express, Ney said he had been making a documentary about one of Gbagbo’s main opponents, exiled army officer Ibrahim Coulibaly.  Ney said police stopped his car near the Cité Rouge neighborhood in the North of Abidjan as he was going to meet a sponsor of the documentary. Unedited video footage of the documentary, which later surfaced on the Internet, showed the preparations of a new purported coup conspiracy by Coulibaly, a former 1999 coup leader. Coulibaly confirmed to Agence France-Presse that Ney had taken footage in which Coulibaly and his entourage discussed preparations for an unspecified Christmas Day operation in Abidjan.