New York, September 9, 2011–CPJ is relieved that fighters loyal to Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara relinquished control last week of offices belonging to newspaper publishers who supported ousted President Laurent Gbagbo, local journalists and news reports said.
Members of the pro-Outtara Republican Forces of the Ivory Coast (FRCI) seized the city of Abidjan in April, and ransacked the offices of pro-Gbagbo media groups La Refondation, publisher of daily Notre Voie, and Cyclone, publisher of daily Le Temps, according to CPJ research. The same month, FRCI forces fired in the air at journalists attempting to survey the damage, news reports said.
In an August 16 press conference, Ivorian Defense Minister Paul Koffi Koffi pledged the withdrawal of FRCI forces, according to news reports. A week later, however, FRCI forces detained an unidentified cameraman of state broadcaster Rediffusion Television Ivoirienne for filming the devastated premises of Notre Voie and confiscated his equipment and footage, news reports said. The FRCI forces finally vacated the premises of both offices last week.
“We welcome the end of the illegal occupation by Ouattara forces of media houses that were favorable to former President Laurent Gbagbo,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Ouattara must deliver on his promise of zero tolerance for harassment and interference in the work of journalists.”
Since the destruction of their printing presses, Notre Voie and Le Temps have been using the printing press of state daily Fraternité Matin, according to local journalists. Notre Voie Editor-in-Chief Lahoua Souanga Etienne, also known as César Etou, told CPJ that the paper would file a complaint over the vandalizing of their offices.