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Côte d’Ivoire4 March 2004

Political leaders urged to keep their promises about press freedom

Reporters Without Borders today called on all Côte d’Ivoire’s national and local politicians to keep the promises they made about press freedom as part of the January 2003 Marcoussis Agreement aimed at ending the country’s civil war.

It said journalists still faced a climate of constant lawlessness and that despite advances in the national reconciliation process, arrests, threats and physical attacks on them had not diminished.

"Harassment comes from all sides," it said. "Local bosses in some areas of the north ban journalists from going there and threaten and arrest them and seize their equipment. In government-controlled areas, police and other officials are doing the harassment."

"All political and military leaders must stick to the promises they made so journalists can work properly and well. This includes curbing the excesses of soldiers and police," it said.

Newspaper distribution has been disrupted in Bouaké and other rebel-controlled towns in the north after attacks on vendors. The state-run TV station RTI is still only broadcast in the southern part of the country despite promises by communications minister Guillaume Soro, leader of the rebel New Forces and a member of the national unity government.

Eleven journalists have been threatened, arrested or physically attacked so far this year. They include Jonas Ouattara Nagolourgo, a photographer with the daily Notre Voie, who was threatened on 3 January by armed members of the New Forces in the north. His photos were seized and destroyed. Danielle Tagro Sylvie and Thierry Gouégnon, of the privately-owned daily Le Courrier d’Abidjan, were detained by the technical education minister during a student demonstration at the ministry on 16 January and Ms Tagro manhandled.

Georges Gobet, an Agence France-Presse photographer, was hit by police on 20 January at the opening of the trial of French journalist Jean Hélène’s killer. Ibrahim Diarra and Charles Sanga, of the daily Le Patriote, and Franck Konaté, of the daily 24 Heures, were physically attacked by presidential guards during an official ceremony in Yamoussoukro on 31 January.

Emmanuel Konan, correspondent of the daily Fraternité Matin in the western town of Daloa, was arrested by a local warlord on 11 February and his equipment confiscated. A few days later, Youssouf Sylla and Diallo Mohamed, correspondents for Fraternité Matin in Bouaké, were forced to flee under after threats by local political bosses. Polycarpe Ilboudo, a photographer with the independent daily Le Jour Plus, was arrested on 21 February without explanation and questioned by police in Abidjan after an ID check.



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