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Authorities to withdraw soldiers from "Notre Voie" newspaper premises

(MFWA/IFEX) - Ivorian authorities are expected to withdraw soldiers from the Cocody, Abidjan headquarters of "Notre Voie", a pro-Gbagbo daily newspaper, by August 31, 2011. The Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire (FRCI - the national army) soldiers have been stationed at the paper's headquarters since April, allegedly to provide security.

The country's Deputy Minister of Defence, Paul Koffi Koffi, broke the news to journalists in response to a question during a press conference on August 16, 2011.

"Notre Voie" has relocated to the Abidjan suburb of Deux Plateaux since the FRCI elements were deployed on April 11, immediately after the fall of ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, in the wake of the country's post-electoral crisis.

The newspaper's headquarters had been a victim of several attacks in the heat of the crisis. The offices were later plundered after Gbagbo was captured by pro-Ouattara forces, which necessitated the deployment.

Since the deployment, the premises have been under lock and key and newspaper staff have been barred from accessing equipment and archival materials from the offices.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that FRCI soldiers prevented a delegation from Gbagbo's party, the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI), from entering the newspaper's premises on August 24, 2011. The delegation, led by Tiéhidé Jean, the FPI's General Secretary responsible for Finance, was refused entry by the soldiers on the grounds that they had not been informed by their superiors of the delegation's visit.

"A cameraman, who was caught filming the scene, was sent to the leader's office on the first floor. Even though he was freed after about an hour, following negociations between the two parties, the cameraman's equipment was seized," the correspondent said.

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