Ivory Coast’s suspension of France 24 is politicized

New York, February 24, 2010The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about politically motivated censorship in Ivory Coast after authorities banned international French broadcaster France 24 on Monday on bogus allegations of unprofessionalism over coverage of political unrest in the West African nation.

Speaking to Reuters today, Frank Anderson Kouassi, the president of Ivory Coast’s National Broadcasting Council (known by its French acronym as CNCA) accused the Paris-based satellite station of reporting “many deaths in a peremptory manner” after security forces opened fire on an anti-government protest in the southwestern city of Gagnoa on Friday. Ivorian military chief Gen. Philippe Mangou declared in a public statement to the media the same day that five people had been killed and several injured in the clashes, according to news reports. Kouassi told CPJ that France 24 had aired “unbalanced information.” In a press statement on its Web site on Monday, France 24 said it hoped the CNCA would reconsider the ban, saying that it “seemed unjustified.”

“The ban on France 24 deprives Ivorians of an essential source of information on the critical political situation in the country,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “We call on the authorities to reverse this ban and refrain from censorship.”

Several local journalists CPJ interviewed said they believed the ruling appeared to be meant to suppress France 24’s exclusive coverage of opposition movements across the country. The government-controlled national broadcaster Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) has not carried demonstrations or interviews with demonstrators, they said. 

Thousands of Ivorian opposition supporters marched to the studios of RTI in the economic capital, Abidjan, in January to protest against what they described as President Laurent Gbagbo’s monopoly of publicly funded state media, according to news reports. Earlier this month, the official National Press Council suspended private daily Le Patriote for three days over several stories critical of members of the government, according to news reports.