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RSF publishes open letter to presidential candidates Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara

(RSF/IFEX) - Paris, 17 November 2010 - Three days before the official start of the campaign for the second round of Côte d'Ivoire's presidential election, Reporters Without Borders wrote today to the two candidates in the run-off, incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara of the Houphouëtiste Rally for Democracy and Peace (RHDP).

The letter asked them to ensure that their media supporters respect journalistic ethics and refrain from insults, defamation and hate messages. It also urged each candidate to undertake to guarantee media freedom and diversity and, in particular, to open up broadcasting to the private sector if elected.

Here is the text of the letter:

Reporters Without Borders, an international press freedom organization, would like to draw your attention to the role that the privately-owned press should play during the days to come and the reforms that the next president should carry out in the media sector.

The campaign for the second round of the presidential election is likely to be the occasion of lively exchanges, especially in the privately-owned print media. As I pointed out during my visit to the Ivorian capital last week, it is normal that some newspapers should support a candidate, but they should also respect the rules of media conduct and journalistic ethics and refrain from smear campaigns.

While we appeal above all to the newspaper editors themselves to prevent any excesses, we would also like to draw your attention to the positive role that you, as political leader, can play by defusing tension. We therefore urge you to act as guarantor of a press that is not only free but also respects diversity of views.

By visiting Côte d'Ivoire many times over the years, by devoting several of its reports to the Ivorian media and by monitoring media coverage during the current election campaign, Reporters Without Borders has demonstrated its readiness to both monitor and assist your country's media. We would now like to express our desire to continue this work after the election and to work with the winner.

The next president must guarantee strict respect for media freedom. He must also promote media diversity by opening up broadcasting, especially television, to the private sector. Once the necessary reforms have been adopted, TV channels and radio frequencies should be allocated for fees that will allow the most modest radio and TV stations, including community ones, to emerge.

Reporters Without Borders will continue to be fully available to the future authorities and ready to provide all sorts of technical cooperation regarding the reforms that are undertaken in the media sector.

Respectfully,

Jean-François Julliard
Secretary-General

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