Cote d’ Ivoire ALERT: Pro-Ouattara newspapers stop publishing in protest against “serious threats to free press”

The group of nine newspapers supporting Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised President of Cote d’ Ivoire on March 1, 2011 began an indefinite suspension of their publications to protest against what they said were constant harassment and intimidation by pro-Gbagbo forces.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)’s correspondent reported that what prompted the action of the newspapers was the suspension of six newspapers by the print media regulatory body, the National Press Council (CNP), which was recently constituted by Laurent Gbagbo’s government before the expiration of the old CNP.

The Gbagbo-controlled CNP in a communiqué Issued on RTI on February25 announced the suspension of the daily Le Nouveau Réveil for period of one week and also imposed fines between 1 and 2 million CFA francs (approx. 2,066 and 4,132US$) on three other dailies, Le Patriote, Nord-Sud and Le Jour Plus.

This was after editors and representatives of six Ouattara newspapers have been grilled on February 22 by the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ivorian police at the behest of the public prosecutor over their news reports in the wake of the political crisis in the country. They were accused of “inciting the public to civil disobedience and insubordination with regard to the authority of the state.” The editors and journalists were interrogated on a wide range of issues including the reference to Gbagbo as “Mr. Gbagbo” and Alassane Ouattara as “President Ouattara.”

According to the group’s spokesman, Dembele Al Seni, they have been affected by high-handed political decisions by pro-Gbagbo authorities which are taking ruthless measures aimed at closing down their newspapers.

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