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IFJ calls for the end of intimidation of journalists reporting on good governance

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 14 September 2007 IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for the End of Intimidation of Journalists Reporting on Good Governance in Côte d'Ivoire

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the recent interrogations, threats and harassment of journalists reporting on government spending in Côte d'Ivoire.

Three journalists have been interrogated for the last three days by criminal police and threatened with death by a Member of Parliament, in relation to articles said to be defamatory towards the President and some members of the ruling party. The MP and the First Lady have filed slander complaints against the private daily newspaper Le Rebond.

"There are efficient media self-regulation bodies in Côte d'Ivoire where these kinds of cases should be solved instead of in courts or police stations," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "We are outraged by these long police interrogations that last up to 10 hours and try to break the journalists' morale."

From Tuesday to Thursday newspaper Le Rebond's director Assoman N'Guetta, editor-in-chief Nando Dapa and reporter Laure Gozo were interrogated the whole day by the criminal police force on instruction of the public prosecutor for "offence to the Head of State" in connection with two recent articles.

One of the articles lists the worth of the "38 billionaires" of the Front Populaire Ivoirien (FPI), the ruling party, which is led by President Laurent Gbagbo and his wife. Those listed are billionaires when their holdings are considered in local currency. The second article says the President and the Prime Minister "wasted" 9 billion Francs CFA (13 million euros) on a ceremonial bonfire of weapons last August.

According to IFJ sources, on Wednesday, MP William Atteby, a member of the FPI, and one of the alleged billionaires in the article in Le Rebond, entered the office where the journalists were questioned and, in front of the police officer, told editor-in-chief Dapa, who wrote the article, that "even if the police force lets you go, I will kill you."

Today the journalists were summoned for the fourth time in one week by the criminal police force who asked them to bring in the research they had gathered for their articles.

"We condemn this move which is a serious violation of press freedom as it's clearly a method of asking journalists to reveal their sources," said Baglo.

In another case, the managing director of the daily newspaper Le Jour Plus, Coulibaly Seydou, and journalist Alexis Noumé were interrogated by the criminal police on Tuesday the whole day, also accused of offences against the Head of State. These accusations stem from an article accusing ruling party members of being the subject of a CIA investigation.

The IFJ called on the government to end the harassment that is intimidating the journalists reporting on government spending in the country.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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