Côte d'Ivoire | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Côte d'Ivoire

Côte d'Ivoire

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

65

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

28

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

The constitution provides for freedom of the press, but since the 2002 rebellion that divided the country into government and rebel-held portions, the government has reduced press freedoms in the name of patriotism and national unity. Parliament scrapped criminal libel and other punitive laws for press offenses in December 2004, and no journalist has reportedly been jailed for his or her work since. However, in July 2005 President Laurent Gbagbo himself filed a defamation suit against a fellow government minister who had accused him of orchestrating the 2002 rebellion.

Journalists remain vulnerable to physical and other abuse by police and influence peddling by powerful politicians and state officials. In the course of 2005, at least three well-known members of the local press told Reporters Sans Frontieres that they had received death threats in connection with their work. Media facilities were also targeted by the parties to the conflict. On July 26, following the violence in and around Abidjan, unidentified persons attacked the headquarters of Edipresse, the national newspaper distribution company, and destroyed copies of opposition newspapers. On July 27, in retaliation, opposition supporters destroyed copies of pro-government dailies and magazines. The crisis has also triggered self-censorship in state media and vitriolic opinions in the private press. International concern about xenophobia and hate language in the Ivoirian media remains acute. In fact, in June and July the media openly fanned the flames of violent anti-UN demonstrations by the pro-Gbagbo Young Patriots militia. The Young Patriots also harassed and beat half a dozen reporters during the riots. Since the killing of Radio France Internationale (RFI) reporter and French citizen Jean Helene in 2003 and the disappearance of French-Canadian reporter Guy-Andre Kieffer in 2004, many foreign correspondents fled Abidjan, once a thriving hub for international media, for other West African capitals.

The situation for press freedom improved in rebel-held territory, with only one incident of media harassment reported in 2005, in which rebels held a state television crew for several hours before releasing them unharmed. The rebel authorities, known as Forces Nouvelles, continue to operate at least one television and two radio stations in their zone. There were no reports of rebel forces interfering with the circulation of pro-government newspapers in their territory.

Ivoirian media remain key players in the enduring political strife. The government controls two major radio stations, one of which is the only national station and key source of news in the country. Private print and community radio stations do present diverse views and frequently scrutinize the government, but they are regularly harassed for these reports. Since 2002, pro-government media, such as the ruling party's daily Notre Voie, have led an ultranationalistic campaign against France, which they accuse of backing the rebellion. A prime target of Ivoirian fury has been the French government-owned RFI, whose broadcasts are regularly restricted or cut off during periods of heightened political tension. On July 15, the National Audiovisual Communication Council again banned RFI from the FM band, allegedly because the station had been "unprofessional" in its coverage of the country. The station remained banned at year's end but could still be heard on shortwave. However, four major private international radio stations continue to be available in Cote d'Ivoire, and internet access, though used infrequently (less than 2 percent of the population), is unrestricted by the government.