New York, January 5, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes Friday’s decision by a judge in Abidjan to release on bail former Ivorian state television presenter Hermann Aboa and calls on prosecutors to drop the politicized charges against him.
Aboa had been incarcerated for 163 days in Abidjan’s main MACA prison on a series of antistate charges. The prosecution was based on his role as a moderator of a political talk show on state Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) during the rule of deposed former President Laurent Gbagbo.
The charges against Aboa, including endangering state security and public order, participation in an insurrection, and incitement to ethnic hatred, have not been dropped, Deputy Public Prosecutor Noël Djè was quoted in news reports as saying. Based on footage of the contentious program, “Raison d’État” (National Interest), CPJ determined that any charges based on Aboa’s performance as a journalist were baseless. Aboa was the only one of four program moderators to be prosecuted.
“We are relieved that Ivorian authorities have finally granted Hermann Aboa his freedom,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “Charges based on Aboa’s journalism have no basis and we call on the Ivorian state prosecutor to drop them immediately.”
Local press freedom group Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists broke the news on Friday, thanking veteran journalist Eugene Dié Kacou for lobbying authorities to release Aboa. He was released along with two public figures close to the deposed former president: Gbagbo’s former physician Christophe Blé and former journalist Franck Anderson Kouassi, according to news reports.
After seizing power with the backing of French forces, ending a five-month power struggle with Gbagbo, President Alassane Ouattara promised democracy and reconciliation with his rival’s supporters. However, CPJ research has found a pattern of censorship and harassment of pro-Gbagbo media outlets, journalists, and former journalists while justice has been slow to hold to account pro-Ouattara forces responsible for abuses against the press.