Dakar, November 1, 2022—Ivoirian authorities must stop harassing journalist Barthélémy Téhin for his reporting on corruption, immediately lift his judicial supervision, which restricts his movement, and ensure that government officials comply with the press law that decriminalizes media offenses, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.
On October 5, a judge in the capital, Abidjan, placed Téhin, managing editor of privately owned daily newspaper Le Panafricain, under judicial supervision following the publication of articles about alleged corruption involving a customs officer, according to a statement from the National Union of Press Professionals of Ivory Coast (SYNAPPCI) and Téhin, who spoke with CPJ by phone. The judge’s order followed a complaint filed by the customs administration against Téhin, who was formally charged with defamation.
Téhin said he was placed under judicial supervision for an unspecified period pending further investigations by the judge. Judicial supervision stipulates that Téhin must appear every 15 days before the judge, and the journalist must gain the judge’s permission if he wants to leave Abidjan.
“Ivorian authorities must immediately lift the judicial supervision placed on Barthélémy Téhin, the editor of Le Panafricain, and allow him to work freely without restrictions,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Not only the letter, but the spirit of the law decriminalizing press offenses, must be respected by not allowing harassment and apparent censorship through the back door.”
Téhin said his placement under judicial supervision is linked to the March 28 publication of 10 articles he wrote, exposing embezzlement of public funds and corruption within the Ivorian customs administrators involving a senior customs official.
Téhin told CPJ that he contacted the customs administration for comment, but after two weeks without a response, he published the articles, which mentioned the attempts to get comment.
Since he began publishing the articles, Téhin said the National Press Authority, the independent regulator, has not given him a single warning and that he believes he is doing his job according to the law.
Under Article 89 of the country’s press law, those convicted of defamation are not subject to detention or imprisonment for “offenses committed through the press or any other means of publication, subject to any other applicable legal provision.” The press law provides for a fine of between one and three million CFA francs (US$1,500 and US$4,500). But authorities have disregarded this law in other recent cases.
CPJ emailed the Ivory Coast customs for comment but did not get an answer.