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Côte d’Ivoire29 January 2007

Newspaper journalist held by Abidjan gendarmes for five days

Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to withdraw their prosecution against journalist Claude Dassé of the privately-owned Soir Info daily, who was held for five days at Abidjan investigative police headquarters on a contempt of court charge concerning the state prosecutor.

“Blatant abuse of authority is not the way to regulate the media in a democracy,” the press freedom organisation said. “Whether he has been libelled or not, the state prosecutor should not have the power to hold a journalist incommunicado in a case such as this. There was no reason to hold him, aside from a senior official’s desire for revenge. The charges against him should be dropped for the same reason.”

Dassé, who works for Soir Info’s culture section, was summoned for questioning by state prosecutor Raymond Tchimou on 25 January and was then detained at the Abidjan gendarmerie’s department of investigation in the district of Plateau, although imprisonment has not been a penalty for press offences in Côte d’Ivoire since 2004.

After being held for five days and not allowed any visitors, he was finally released today but he remains charged with contempt of court on account of an interview he gave to the privately-owned daily Le Rebond, published on 24 January, in which he accused the prosecutor of being “corrupt”for allowing a singer, Pierrette Adams, to flee the country after paying thugs to beat him up in 1997.

“I was held illegally, with criminals, for upsetting a senior state official,” Dassé told Reporters Without Borders today. “I was forced to present bogus apologies, as I stand by all of what I said. This is a regrettable case for Côte d’Ivoire.”

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