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Opposition daily fined in libel ruling, offices attacked

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF has expressed concern over a 20 October 2009 ruling by the Ivorian media regulatory body Conseil national de la presse (CNP) against daily newspaper "Le Nouveau Réveil". The paper, which is closely linked to the Parti démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), the party of former leader and current candidate in the upcoming presidential elections Henri Konan Bédié, has been fined for libeling Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.

RSF has also condemned the recent sacking of the paper's offices by a group of students, who reportedly then turned on a group of "Nouveau Réveil" staffers.

RSF called for all regulatory bodies to respect divergent views but also for editors and journalists to maintain a sense of professionalism in their coverage of stories.

In its 20 October decision, the CNP ordered "Le Nouveau Réveil" to pay libel damages of 5 million FCFA (approx. 7,500 euros) to Soro after it ran a front-page story entitled "Soro talking nonsense after jaunt to China" in its 16 October issue.

In a separate incident, on 22 October, several dozen students from the student group Union nationale estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d'Ivoire (UNESCI) sacked the offices of "Le Nouveau Réveil" before turning on several "Nouveau Réveil" staffers. The students had gone to the offices to drop off a response to a story they claimed libeled their group, but the situation rapidly escalated. Seven staff members were injured, according to the paper, and equipment was damaged or taken in the scuffle. Among the injured were desk editor Parfait Tadjau, journalists Diarrasouba Sory, Djê K M, Kouassi N'goran, Kadélaure Rachèle, Tréta Zoumana, as well as intern Kouadio Eugène.

Police were quick to arrive on the scene and question those involved in the incident but no arrests were made.
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