Six journalists from four media houses accused of publishing false news and inciting soldiers to mutiny, have been arrested and detained by the Gendarmerie in Cote d’Ivoire.
The six have been in custody since February 12, 2017. They are Coulibaly Vamara and Hamadou Ziao, of the Inter newspaper; Bamba Franck Mamadou, of Notre Voie; Gbané Yacouba and Ferdinand Bailly of Le Temps as well as Jean Bédel Gnago, the correspondent of Soir Info at Aboiso.
The publications for which the journalists were arrested alleged that the government had paid allowances being demanded by mutinous soldiers at Adiake, a claim that the Attorney General, Adou Richard Christophe, judged to be a “breach of national security.”
They were interrogated at the national headquarters of the Gendarmerie and later taken into detention at the Gendarmerie Camp at Agban in Abidjan.
The arrests have alarmed the media in Cote d’Ivoire. The national Union of Media Professionals in Cote d’Ivoire, Syndicat National des Professionnels de la Presse de Côte d’Ivoire (SYNAPPCI), has condemned the action of the gendarmes and the Attorney General and called for the immediate release of the journalists.
Over the past one month, soldiers have staged several protests in Abidjan, Yamoussoukro, Man, Bondoukou, Daloa, Bouaké and Odienné to demand pay rise and better living conditions.
The agitations within the army began before the said newspaper publications. The news reports could not, therefore, be said to have incited the riots. The six journalists are thus, being used as scapegoats.
The MFWA wishes to remind the authorities in Cote d’Ivoire about the adoption in August 2016 of the Press Law that excludes ‘imprisonment, keeping in custody and preventive detention for for press offenses.
We call on the government of Cote d’Ivoire to order the release the six journalists from detention and ensure their safety in accordance with its obligations under the above-mentioned law, as well as the regional and international protocols and treaties on freedom of expression which the country has ratified.