The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) has petitioned the Ivorian statutory media regulatory body, the Conseil National De La Press (CNP), regarding its frequent suspension of newspapers and journalists over complaints of ethical violations.
Since the beginning of the year, the CNP has issued sanctions in the form of suspensions and fines to twelve media houses and journalists: Notre Voie, Le Jour Plus, Le Temps, Le Nouveau Courrier, Aujourd’hui, Soir Info, Le Quotidien d’Abidjan, Le Monde d’Abidjan, Moussa Traorè, Alefè Wakili, N’Guessan Kouassi, and Oula Saint Claver. Last month, in one notable instance of self-censorship, L’Intelligent d’Abidjan suspended publications until further notice in protest of the CNP’s “arbitrary” sanctions.
“While we acknowledge that unprofessionalism by the Ivorian media is worrying, we believe that the nature and persistence of the sanctions and fines by the CNP have the tendency to cow even professionally behaving media,” wrote Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of the MFWA. “Such level of sanctions could also have a chilling effect on media freedom in Cote d’Ivoire.”
Consequently, the MFWA hopes the CNP will develop strategies for addressing media unprofessionalism that do not foster censorship. The MFWA, in partnership with the International Media Support (IMS), has already worked jointly with media stakeholders in Cote d’Ivoire to develop a Journalism Code of Ethics for the Ivorian Media in 2012 and improve media professionalism. In its letter to the CNP, the MFWA pledged to continue to support capacity building of journalists and overall development of the media sector in Cote d’Ivoire.
Below is the letter to the CPN
September 5, 2014
Monsieur Raphaël Lakpé
Conseil National de la Presse
Cocody les Deux Plateaux 1ère tranche, n 224 bis;
BP V 106 Abidjan,
Need For Other Forms Of Recourse In Dealing With Unprofessionalism in the Ivorian Press
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) presents its compliments to you. As you may be aware, the MFWA is a regional organization headquartered in Ghana which seeks to promote Freedom ofExpression and Democracy in the West Africa sub region.
We commend you for your efforts in promoting professionalism in the Ivorian media landscape. We, however, note with concern the many sanctions being meted out to press houses and journalists for perceived acts of unprofessionalism.
While we acknowledge that unprofessionalism by the Ivorian media is worrying, we believe that the sanctions and finesby the CNP have the tendency to cow even professionally behavingmedia, causing a chilling effect on media freedom.
So far, the CNP has sanctioned 12 media organisations and journalists for various offences. The Notre Voie, Le Jour Plus, Le Temps, Le NouveauCourrier, Aujourd’hui, Soir Info, Le Quotidien d’Abidjan, Le Monde d’Abidjan, Moussa Traorè, Alefè Wakili, N’Guessan Kouassi and Oula Saint Claver have all been sanctioned since the beginning of this year.
Some of these press houses and journalists have been sanctioned more than once over the last eight months. As an organisation that seeks to promote freedom of expression, the MFWA is worried that constant sanctioning has the tendency to stifle the media which are critical in informing and educating the public while also giving the public the platform for their voices to be heard.
The August 10, 2014 decision by the management of privately-owned L’Intelligent d’Abidjan newspaper to suspend publications until further notice has illustrated the self-censoring effects of these sanctions.
According to the newspaper’s management, this decision was just the beginning of a series of actions and initiatives aimed at protesting and seeking redress for the many “arbitrary” suspensions by the CNP.
We are, therefore, appealing to the CNP to reconsider its approach in dealing with the unprofessionalism of the media and journalists in the country and adopt a strategy that would not discourage reporting.
The importance of a vibrant media in promoting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law cannot be overemphasized. We also pledge to contribute to enhancing professional standards in the Ivorian media as we did in the recent past by supporting the development and implementation of a new Code of Ethics for the media.