Côte d’Ivoire: Soldier threatens Investigative Journalist

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns threats and intimidation against investigative journalist Noël Konan, and urges the Ivorian authorities to investigate the incident and punish the perpetrator.

Noël Konan, editor of the website www.letau.net, has since 5 March 2024, felt more vulnerable than ever before. This is because a certain Kadri Cheick Berté, an officer working for the cybercrime unit, Unité de lutte contre la grande criminalité (ULGC), could easily use his (Konan’s) personal data to threaten him.

For several months, Konan has been investigating cases of extortion of funds from economic operators, citizenship fraud, Ivorian passport trafficking and falsification of administrative documents. His investigations have exposed compromising information implicating several individuals.

As part of his investigations, Konan requested an interview with Berté, who has worked closely with the economic and financial criminal division (Pôle pénal économique et financier), a special jurisdiction responsible for fighting economic and financial crimes.

However, after a brief exchange with the journalist and an agreement to contact him again at a later date to provide the requested explanations, the ULGC soldier refused to keep his promise. Instead, he published profile photos of the journalist’s X and Facebook accounts. He also sent the journalist a photo of his national identity card and a photo of the partial log of his (Konan’s) telephone calls, before subsequently deleting them.

The soldier’s action was no doubt intended to make it clear to the journalist that he (Berté) has been monitoring him and keeping a very close eye on his activities and movements.

The officer’s threats did not leave Konan indifferent. The journalist said he was disturbed. But solidarity messages and personal calls from organisations such as the MFWA and other individuals have set him at ease, said the journalist, who also indicated that “a complaint will be lodged with the prosecutor’s office at the Military Court today [13 March, 2024]”.

“I am taking basic precautions to stay safe,” he told the MFWA in a telephone interview.

The MFWA condemns the blatant violation of press freedom, privacy and the safety of the journalist who is simply fulfilling his duty to inform the public in an independent and impartial manner. We urge the Ivorian government to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of the journalist and his family. We also call on the military authorities to apply the internal sanctions in force against Mr Berté, and urge the police to investigate the incident and prosecute whoever is responsible, notwithstanding any disciplinary measures that may be taken by the military authorities.

Press freedom and the protection of journalists are vital in any democracy. Journalists must be able to exercise their profession free from fear of reprisals, intimidation or violence. It is the State’s responsibility to guarantee an enabling environment for independent and investigative journalism. Therefore, it is non-negotiable that such acts of intimidation should be punished.

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