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RSF urges United Nations to insist on respect for media freedom

(RSF/IFEX) - 22 December 2010 - As the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council prepares to hold a special session on the situation in Côte d'Ivoire since the 28 November presidential election run-off, Reporters Without Borders urges the council and other international bodies to pay close attention to the press freedom situation there.

The publication of newspapers has been obstructed, local retransmission of certain foreign radio and TV stations has been blocked and there has been a disturbing decline in the security of journalists, creating a climate of fear and intimidation for the media.

Safety of journalists
Foreign press targeted

At least 10 foreign journalists have been arrested since 28 November and some have had their equipment confiscated. During a march by supporters of Alassane Ouattara on 16 December, troops loyal to Laurent Gbagbo turned their Kalashnikovs on a France 2 crew, while live rounds were used to disperse a France 3 crew, which fortunately sustained no injuries or damage.

Alassane Kanaté, a freelance cameraman working for the French news channel France 24, was arrested at a military roadblock and taken to police headquarters in the Abidjan district of Plateau, where he was held overnight and mistreated.

Local journalists exposed to intimidation

On the evening of 2 December, two journalists working for the opposition daily Le Mandat were taken to the headquarters of the Republican Guard and were beaten before being released. Some journalists are now living in fear as a result of the targeted arrests that have been taking place for several days.

Reduced freedom of information
Foreign media broadcasts suspended

The signals of all international radio and TV news stations carried by the Canal+ Horizon satellite service were suspended on the orders of the National Broadcasting Council (CNCA) on 2 December on the grounds of the need to "preserve social peace, which has been seriously shaken."

Anti-foreigner disinformation

The state-owned Radio-Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) accused France 24 on 3 December of trying to "destabilize the country" by broadcasting the Independent Electoral Council's proclamation of provisional results, according to which Ouattara won the presidential election. The daily Le Temps accused the French media on 2 December of "concealing the reality" and "showing bad faith." The same day, Notre Voie ran the headline: "Election second round, lies and disinformation from France 24 and RFI."

Opposition newspapers temporarily banned by Republican Guard

Members of the Republican Guard raided the Sud Actions Médias and Olympe printing presses on 16 December in order to prevent them from printing the independent daily L'Intelligent d'Abidjan and seven opposition newspapers: Le Patriote, Le Nouveau Réveil, L'Expression, Nord-Sud, Le Jour Plus, Le Mandat and Le Démocrate. The Republican Guard also ordered the distributor Presstalis not to distribute any opposition newspapers. Three days later, they were all on sale again following intervention by the National Press Council (CNP), which regulates the print media.

Reporters Without Borders has received many reports about the jamming of the UN radio station, ONUCI FM, by state-owned Radio Côte d'Ivoire. The press freedom organisation has also been told that journalists are often expelled from news conferences or public events when the organizers suspect them of supporting a rival faction.

Recommendations

Reporters Without Borders calls on the United Nations to:
- appeal to all the parties to the Ivorian crisis to respect the work and safety of journalists
- ask the authorities to restore the transmission of foreign broadcast media, to end RTI's broadcasting monopoly
- condemn the accusations and labelling of journalists, which threatens their safety
- urge journalists, in these troubled times, to act with restraint and adhere to professional standards.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
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