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Media groups demand immediate release of detained journalists

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 16 July 2010, professional media organisations in Côte d'Ivoire issued an ultimatum to the Ivoirian authorities to free the three senior journalists of privately-owned daily newspaper "Le Noveau Courier". The journalists are currently being held for publishing a leaked report on corruption in the country's cocoa and coffee sector.

The journalists, Saint Claver Oula, Stéphane Guédé and Théophile Kouamouo, editor-in-chief, publisher and managing editor respectively, are being detained on the orders of the public prosecutor, Raymond Tchimou Fehou. They have been in police custody since their arrest on 13 July.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent in Côte d'Ivoire reported that at a news conference in Abidjan, the capital, the media groups threatened that should the authorities fail to release the journalist by the close of the day, 16 July, they would all publish the full report of the enquiry on the alleged embezzlement in their respective media outlets on 19 July.

The detained journalists, who have refused to reveal the sources of the information, were expected to appear at the public prosecutor department on 16 July.

Désiré Gueu, the journalists' counsel, told MFWA's correspondent that it is likely his clients would be charged for "theft of an administrative document" and sent to the Abidjan Civil Prison, following their refusal to disclose their sources.

MFWA urges the media groups to remain steadfast in their resolve to ensure the release of the journalists. The organisation reiterates its earlier call for the journalists to be released immediately and unconditionally.

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