Thursday, February 10, 2011

Freedom of Speech: Cote D'ivoire - Three journalists receive death threats from pro-Gbagbo militia group

Sources: International Freedom of Expression Exchange and Media Foundation for West Africa

On the night of 6 February 2011, Madeleine Tanou, female reporter of "Soir Info", an independent daily newspaper, received death threats from persons believed to be members of the Groupement Patriotique pour la Paix (GPP), a pro-Gbagbo militia group, for allegedly writing negative things about Laurent Gbagbo.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent in Côte d'Ivoire reported that Tanou received three SMS text messages claiming that she now supports Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised president of the country.

One of the messages read: "It is you journalists of the Groupe Olympe who are saying bad things about Gbagbo. Be careful, otherwise one day the GPP will visit you at night. As for you Tanou, we know where you live. You support the RHDP (Rally of Houphouetists for Democracy Peace), you will see. When your premises went up in flames, was it not Gbagbo who bailed you out? And you go about castigating him. We are not joking. We will skin you alive. You will see."

Another message read: "We thought that you were neutral, now you are supporting ADO (Alhassane Dramane Ouattara) and (Henri Konan) Bedie. If you do not take care, you will see what will happen to you. Do you remember your colleague who was killed last week, and you, you must think."

In a related development, two other journalists have also received death threats. Assomon Anoh, director of community radio station Bia FM, located in Aboisso, a town about 122 km south-east of Abidjan, was threatened by persons suspected to be militants of the RHDP for synchronising his station's programme with that of the Gbagbo-controlled, state-owned Ivorian Broadcasting Corporation (RTI). Following a 5 January story on the alleged defection of 12 officers of Gbagbo's Defence and Security Forces to the Ouattara camp, Kesy B. Jacobs, editor-in-chief of "Nord-Sud", a newspaper sympathetic to the RHDP, has been subjected to insults and threats on the telephone by persons he suspected to be Gbagbo supporters.

MFWA is deeply concerned about the safety of journalists in Côte d'Ivoire. We urge the authorities and the two factions in the political crisis to guarantee and protect the lives and rights of journalists.