Aboa, a television presenter with state broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI), was arrested on antistate charges in connection with his role as moderator of a partisan political show when the station was controlled by former President Laurent Gbagbo.
From November 2010 to February 2011, Aboa was one of four moderators of the show “Raison d’État” (National Interest), which exclusively featured guests favorable to then-President Gbagbo, according to CPJ research. Gbagbo was locked in a five-month power struggle with rival Alassane Ouattara, whose U.N.-certified victory in the November 2010 presidential elections was challenged by Gbagbo until French-backed Ouattara forces ousted him in April.
Ivorian investigating magistrate Mamadou Koné charged Aboa with antistate crimes, including endangering state security and public order, participation in an insurrection, and incitement to ethnic hatred, according to news reports and local journalists. Less than a week after the arrest, Ouattara declared in a press conference at U.N. headquarters that Aboa’s program was “really calling on hate, hatred,” and inciting “people to kill each other.” He compared Aboa’s program to Radio Mille Collines, a Rwandan government-sponsored station that directed killings during the 1994 genocide in that country. Ouattara also accused the journalist of accepting money from Gbagbo “to buy arms, to distribute arms to mercenaries.”
Based on footage of Aboa’s program, CPJ determined that the accusations regarding Aboa’s performance as a journalist were baseless. Authorities did not disclose any evidence to support the arms-smuggling accusations, and local journalists question the allegations. He was the only one of four program moderators to be prosecuted.
Aboa fled the country in April following Gbagbo’s fall, but he returned in June in response to Ouattara’s call for exiles to come home after the conflict had ended, according to CPJ research.
In interviews with CPJ in October, Ivorian State Prosecutor Koffi Simplice said Aboa was in preventive detention pending completion of an investigating magistrate’s probe. He said such investigations could last as long as five years. Aboa was being held in Abidjan’s MACA Prison, according to local journalists. In November, authorities denied Aboa’s petition for release on bail, according to news reports. No date for a trial had been set by late year.