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Ivory coast8 April 2004

Journalist sentenced to six months in prison for defamation

8 April 2004

Journalist sentenced to six months in prison for defamation

On 31 March 2004, Gaston Bony, publication director of the weekly "Le Venin" ("Venom"), was sentenced to six months in prison with no parole and jailed at the Agboville prison, in a suburb of Abidjan. Bony’s imprisonment came despite assurances by the authorities, including President Laurent Gbagbo, that no journalist in the country would ever be jailed again.

Reporters without borders expressed surprise over Bony’s sentencing and urged the authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that the journalist is released without delay. "Nothing can justify the jailing of a journalist who is charged with defamation. This measure is exceptionally repressive and runs contrary to international recommendations. The Ivoirian government knows this very well," the organisation said in a statement. "We have held meetings with officials several times, notably with the president and the prime minister, and all of them gave assurances that journalists would no longer be jailed in Côte D’ivoire for expressing opinions. We expect an explanation from the authorities," Reporters without borders added.

Bony, the publication director of "Le Venin" and principal host of La voix de l’Agnéby (The Voice of Agnéby), a local radio station, has been held at the Agboville prison since 31 March. He was sentenced to six months in prison with no parole and fined 500,000 CFA francs (approx. US$920; 760 euros) for defamation. He was charged after the publication of an article entitled, "Agboville Mayor Tetchi Chiedou Claude misappropriates three million [CFA francs] from radio station’s grant in order to pay for the occult services of a friend". According to certain witnesses, the journalist was unable to corroborate the story in court. Others said he refused to reveal his sources.

It is the first time a journalist has been sentenced to prison with no parole and jailed since Gbagbo became president in 2000.

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