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Prime minister calls for fair access to public media for presidential candidates

(RSF/IFEX) - 5 October 2010 - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the determination expressed by the Ivorian authorities to ensure that all candidates in this month's presidential election have fair access to the public media during the campaign. Prime Minister Guillaume Soro stressed this point at a meeting with state media executives and media regulatory officials four days ago.

"The success of this presidential election, due to be held on 31 October after several years of delays, will require fair and equitable media coverage of the campaign," Reporters Without Borders said. "We therefore urge state-owned Radio-Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) to act democratically and comply with the electoral law's rules on candidate access to air-time. We also urge all the print media not to stir up tension when the campaign officially gets under way."

At the European Union's request, Reporters Without Borders will monitor the media's coverage of the campaign, both quantitatively (air-time allocation) and qualitatively (how each candidate is covered). The monitoring will begin at the start of the official campaign.

Election coverage was the subject of the meeting which Prime Minister Soro, communication minister Ibrahim Sy Savané and Ivorian crisis facilitator representative Boureima Badini held on 1 October with RTI director-general Brou Amessan, Fraternité Matin editor Jean-Baptiste Akrou and the representatives of the National Broadcasting Council (CNCA) and the National Press Council (CNP).

Prime Minister Soro called on the media representatives to ensure strict compliance with article 30 of the election law, which states that candidates must have fair and impartial access to the state-owned media.

The prime minister also ordered the closure of all the "pirate" radio and TV stations broadcasting in areas controlled by Côte d'Ivoire's former rebels.

The CNCA issued an order in December 2009 (Decision No. 2009-07) requiring "unauthorised TV broadcasts in the centre, north and west to cease immediately" and ordering radio stations in these regions to "regularise their legal situation within 30 days." The former rebels had immediately let it be known that they opposed the CNCA's order and that their radio and TV stations would continue to broadcast.

Four days have gone by since the prime minister issued his order but the "pirate" media in the north – estimated to consist of about 30 radio stations and six TV stations – continue to operate, thereby preventing RTI from covering the entire country.

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