A court in Cote d’Ivoire has imposed a fine of CFA Franc 5 million (about USD 8,356.55) on a newspaper for publishing false information about the COVID-19 status of two inmates at the Maison d’Arret et de Correction d’Abidjan (MACA), Abidjan’s biggest prison.
Director of publication Cissé Sindou and the editor of the Générations Nouvelles newspaper, Marc Dossa were on March 25, 2020, summoned to the investigation brigade of the police in Abidjan after they published that two individuals who were taken into custody at Abidjan Central Prison are allegedly infected with the Coronavirus.
The prison administration denied the information and filed a complaint at the police against the newspaper. In a press release, the prison administration indicated that the people recently brought to prison were placed in an observation room, in accordance with the safety and health measures recommended by the National Security Council before being put in the cells.
On March 25, 2020, a Magistrate’s Court ruled that the newspaper had published false information likely to cause panic and ordered it to pay the equivalent of USD 8,356 in fine.
The Management of Générations Nouvelles says they will appeal the verdict.
The MFWA is of the view that MACA has a right to a rejoinder which the offending newspaper is obliged to publish. We therefore find it regrettable the continuous fines imposed on newspapers, which has the great potential to undermine the viability of newspapers. Having said this, we believe that respect for professional ethics is one of the cardinal standards of the profession of journalism, particularly in the fight against the pandemic where the role of accurate information and education is crucial and essential.