The government-run National Press Council on August 10, 2015, suspended for one month the privately owned daily Aujourd’hui, according to news reports. The council said the suspension was in connection with a series of articles the paper published between July 16 and July 31, 2015.
The Aujourd’hui articles cited allegedly classified documents that the paper said originated from France’s defense and spy intelligence agency, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), the reports said. Some of the articles, allegedly from the DGSE, accused President Alassane Ouattara of complicity in planning to rig the October 2015 elections, recruiting mercenaries, and purchasing arms in violation of a United Nations arms embargo. The articles also mentioned alleged plans by France to oust Ouattara from power, according to CPJ’s review of the articles.
Joseph Titi, the publisher of Aujourd’hui, was detained in prison in the capital, Abidjan, on July 29, 2015, and released a week later after being charged with defamation, insulting the president and a foreign head of state, and publishing false information in one of the articles, according to news reports and Titi, who spoke to CPJ. The article cited documents, allegedly from the DGSE, that accused the involvement of Ouattara in illicit funds transfers, money laundering, and embezzling funds from the International Monetary Fund-World Bank’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, Titi said.
Titi told CPJ that the paper had appealed the suspension with the National Press Council, but had stopped publishing.
Local journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers told CPJ they believed the charges against Titi were politically motivated and aimed at preventing Aujourd’hui from publishing further critical reports on the government.