In Ivory Coast, Journalists Pick Sides Or Flee

By Nassirou Diallo with Mohamed Keita/CPJ Africa Staff

Reporting on the power struggle in Ivory Coast is increasingly perilous, with journalists facing a climate of threats, intimidation, and attacks that has forced many to choose between adopting partisan coverage or fleeing to safety. "Here, we are in a situation where if you are not with one camp, then you are against them. You must show you are partisan," reporter

told CPJ today.

Goué heads a local press freedom group called the Ivorian Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CIPJ), which has documented and spoken out against abuses committed by supporters of both President Laurent Gbagbo and challenger Alassane Ouattara. Goue said he fears for the safety of all journalists following Sunday's call by Gbagbo youth militia leader Charles Blé Goudé to arm the president's supporters.

Goué told CPJ he has gone into hiding himself after being threatened in response to his public statements. In comments made on the UN-sponsored radio station, Goué criticized Gbagbo's efforts to restrict the press and questioned the antistate charges lodged against jailed journalists Aboubacar Sanogo and Yayoro Charles Lopez Kangbé of the rebel-held TV Notre Patrie.

Since the disputed November 2010 presidential runoff between Gbagbo and Ouattara, Abidjan is a battleground between security forces loyal to Gbagbo and rebel forces backing Ouattara. UN peacekeepers have attempted to protect civilians, but they are facing hostility from Gbagbo supporters who resent the UN's recognition of Ouattara as president-elect. In the partisan divide, media outlets supporting Gbagbo are identified as "blue," while pro-Ouattara outlets are "green."

"We are working in very precarious conditions," said Guillaume Gbato, a journalist with the "blue" daily Notre Voie. In February, a printing press employee of La Refondation, publisher of Notre Voie, was killed by a mob in the Abidjan suburb of Koumassi. Legré's affiliation with the newspaper was known in the area, said Gbagto, who believes Ouattara supporters could be responsible. These days, Notre Voie's offices in the Cocody district of Abidjan are thin on staff because of difficulties linked to security and transportation, Gbato said.

Nando Dapa, editor of the daily Le Démocrate, a "green" newspaper also based in Cocody, told me he was briefly seized and threatened by captors on February 24 as he drove toward Abobo. Dapa said armed youths at an impromptu checkpoint stopped his car. "They found out that I was a journalist and when I said the name of my newspaper, they replied, 'Very good. We are, in fact, looking for you.'" Dapa said the youths fired shots in the air and forced Dapa into a dark hall where he was roughly interrogated and threatened.

The UN-sponsored radio station, ONUCI FM, has encountered security problems as well. "We have problems getting around in the pro-Gbagbo neighborhoods because of barricades erected by the Young Patriots [Gbagbo militia] and security forces," the station's director, Sylvain Semilenko, told me.

"Since February 6, the Gbagbo camp refuses to come on our airwaves on the pretext that we are illegal," he said, referring to a ruling of the Gbagbo-controlled broadcast regulator to strip the station of broadcast license. "To balance reporting, we use NGOs which have access to the Gbagbo camp or we quote their public statements given to other media outlets," he added. Although the station has broadcast freely, Semilenko said the homes of station personnel have been raided by unidentified armed men.

Even the country's main distributing company, Edipresse, which prints and delivers both "blue" and "green" in the same facility, has been drawn into the struggle for media control. Armed police officers loyal to Gbagbo surrounded the Edipresse warehouse and blocked the distribution of pro-Ouattara newspapers for two days, Léo Kamon, an Edipresse official, told CPJ.

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gbagbo!!!

he will soon go the way of gaddafi...when the united nation wake from their hypocrazy...forgive my english, Quatara will be enthroned...I hope they can use the same force they are using on libya on laurent gbagbo..
time for all these despots to leave,,,,,,

sit-tight syndrome

African leaders and this their sit-tight-in-office syndrome, may God help us! Such cant happen in Nigerian anymore.
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Gbagbo; The Pharaoh of Ivory Coast.

Gbagbo is just behaving like Pharaoh; a typical egocentric African leader who wants to force himself on the people.His decision not to relinquish power to the winner of the election actually shows the selfishness of some african leaders who have no sympathy for their people, Unfortunately, the history teacher hasn't learned much from the stories of people like Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, Sani Abacha,Idi Amin,Saddam Husseine, Mobutu, Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, Jonas Savimbi and lately, his close pal and Libyan mad dog, Ghaddafi. It is also clear that Gbagbo either don't regard the lives of fellow Ivorians to the extent that he care less seeing innocent lives sacrificed for his selfish cause or have done very atrocious things and cannot step down because of fear of punishment or both. When leaders in power are so comfortable with sacrificing the lives of their citizens, one begins to wonder whose interests come first; that of the people or that of the leader who clings so desperately to power.The killing of seven innocent women by his death squad is a crime unacceptable by logic or could be justified.The continent does not need "strong men" like Gbagbo in this 21st century.Mr.Gbagbo must leave in the superior interest of the Ivorian people, and to safeguard peace.

Lack of real leaders in Africa

The reason for the leadership vacuum is simple but tragic: The people support the wrong leaders and the people don't understand/ don't investigate ethics. For example, Mugabe has as many supporters in Africa as does Obama in the US. How can people not verify the facts and see what he's done? Why cling to the vague historic idea that he's a freedom fighter? Because the people don't understand ethics, morality, democracy etc. and the people are lazy to investigate. If we supported justice there would be leaders. The rich talent of leadership in Africa is ignored and ineffective because we, the people, ignore them.

Mandela, for example, struggled against certain trains of thought and new policies in the ANC and was brushed aside. Tutu told the truth until the day he retired, but his own people ignored him. That is our downfall.

Tyrants and Clown in Power

Gbagbo is one of them. Mugabe is another. Museveni is chief among them. Unfortunately, where are all the statemen, i.e. Mandela, Nyerere - some are dead and some retired from public life. What Africans have got left are tyrants and selfish bigots.

President Zuma of South Africa is a lightweight. I wonder why people like Rawlins of Ghana have gone into obscurity.

African nations will never see peace with clowns in power!

This recycled African "bipolar" leaders with their draconian mindsets are creating problems for Africans and while denying its people peaceful coexistence amongst its citizens.

Unfortunately, while the West continues to proliferate African countries with small arms, these thugs we called leaders and their cronies get their hands on these weaponry and use it to kill and maim more Africans at will. This all in the name of power struggle. I wonder when Africa will ever come of age? I guess never!!!

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