New York, July 16, 2010—Three journalists were formally charged today after refusing to reveal to Ivory Coast’s state prosecutor their sources for a corruption story based on a document leaked from the prosecutor’s office. The journalists could face up to 10 years in prison.
Managing Editor Stéphane Guédé, News Editor Théophile Kouamouo, and Editor-in-Chief Saint-Claver Oula of the daily Le Nouveau Courrier were charged with “theft of administrative documents,” defense lawyer The three are in the commercial city of Abidjan pending trial, he said.
Le Nouveau Courrier story, published Tuesday, detailing the results of investigations by State Prosecutor Raymond Tchimou into corruption in the country’s coffee and cocoa export trade. The story, based on the prosecutor’s confidential report, detailed allegations of systematic embezzlement and over-billing. Tchimou charged the journalists
“By charging Stéphane Guédé, Théophile Kouamouo, and Saint-Claver Oula with theft, the Ivorian state prosecutor is criminalizing investigative journalism,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We hold Ivorian authorities responsible for the well-being of Oula and we call on the criminal court to dismiss these charges and release our colleagues immediately.”
Guillaume Gbato, a spokesman for a coalition of local professional journalists associations, said all newspapers in Ivory Coast will be asked to republish Le Nouveau Courrier’s story on Monday as a sign of solidarity.