New York, February 18, 2011–Ivorian police in the economic capital, Abidjan, interrogated and issued summonses for questioning this week for editors of newspapers favorable to former presidential candidate Alassane Ouattara, according to local journalists. The U.N. has recognized Ouattara as the president-elect since disputed November 2010 runoff elections against President Laurent Gbagbo.
Police and an assistant prosecutor questioned Editor Yacouba Kébé of Nord-Sud, and Le Nouveau Réveil Editor Patrice Yao and reporter Tiémoko Antoine Assalé today about several stories in their newspapers that reported statements made by the Ouattara camp, and accused them of “calling the army to mutiny, inciting the public not to recognize the authorities, and inciting hatred and violence,” Kébé told CPJ. The journalists denied the accusations to CPJ, saying they were reporting facts.
In an ongoing struggle to gain power over the media, Gbagbo issued a decree on February 4 that sacked the head of Ivory Coast’s official print media regulator, the National Press Council (CNP), and dismissed its board, according to news reports.
“After seizing control of the print media regulatory agency, the administration of President Laurent Gbagbo is now using the police to harass newspapers favorable to Alassane Ouattara,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We condemn these actions and call on the administration to adhere to the constitution, which guarantees press freedom.”
Several editors of pro-opposition Ivorian newspapers–including dailies Le Démocrate and Le Jour Plus–have received police summonses since Thursday over coverage favorable to Ouattara, according to local press freedom group Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jacob Kessi’s name has been corrected to Yacouba Kébé. Jacob Kessi is his pen name.