Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the decision of the Abidjan authorities to allow three international radio stations, RFI, BBC and Africa No. 1, to resume local retransmission of their programmes on FM frequencies after a five-month interruption. But it urged the Marcoussis accords follow-up committee, which announced the decision on 28 February, to maintain pressure on the government.
"Restoring the international radio stations is an encouraging initial measure, but it must not be used to mask almost daily violations of press freedom in Côte d’Ivoire," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to the president of the Marcoussis accords follow-up committee, Albert Tévoedjrè.
As an example of the constant violations, Ménard noted that on 1 March, the day after the follow-up committee announced the decision, a TV crew with the French TV channel France 2 and reporters with Agence France-Presse (AFP) were insulted and manhandled by soldiers and civilians when trying to cover a press conference by President Laurent Gbagbo in Abidjan. Accused of being the "enemies of Côte d’Ivoire"and of "selling out" the country, they were forced to leave the site of the press conference.
Ménard urged the committee to pursue its efforts and, in particular, "to do everything possible to obtain protection for journalists who request it and stop certain Ivorian newspapers from carrying messages of hate and xenophobia."
Ménard also asked the follow-up committee to take up the case of Kloueu Gonzreu, the correspondent of the Agence Ivoirienne de Presse (AIP) news agency in Toulépleu, in the west of the country, who was reported missing on 11 January after being detained that day by Liberian militiamen, according to his family. Several persons arrested at the same time, including his 19-year-old son Thierry, were later found dead.
The FM broadcasts in Abidjan by the three international radio stations were halted by the government on 19 September 2002.