Reporters Without Borders today called on the Ivorian government to reprimand the state media after the government radio station said an arrested French journalist was "a spy" in the pay of the country’s rebel forces.
The journalist, Anne Boher, who works for the British news agency Reuters, was arrested on 6 January by government forces in San-Pédro, 450 km west of Abidjan. The radio accused her of spying for the main rebel group, the Côte d’Ivoire Patriotic Movement (MPCI), which controls half the country, and said she was carrying "incriminating documents." After being taken to Abidjan for questioning, she was freed the next day.
"Being called a spy over the radio seriously endangers a journalist’s safety," said Reporters Without Border secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The job of the state media is to try calm the situation, not make it worse." He called on President Laurence Gbagbo to meet him to discuss press freedom in Côte d’Ivoire.
The organisation also called on the authorities, notably communications minister Séry Bailly, to make every effort to see that journalists could work freely and securely in areas under government control.
Since the attempted coup on 19 September last, the press freedom situation in Côte d’Ivoire has sharply worsened, with many local and foreign journalists targeted by government forces. Several were arrested and a French radio producer was held for six days.