Government withdraws controversial media bill for further consideration
liberté de la presse en Cote d'ivoire, un projet de loi en pleine polemique...les journalistes s'inquiètent de leur avenir. pic.twitter.com/54NS9RgCrg— zogre jean eudes (@jeanzogre) 3 mei 2017
On 5th May 2017, the government of Cote d'Ivoire presented a new draft law on the media in the National Assembly, which contained repressive provisions. For example, article 90 of the draft law prescribes a prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to 3,000,000 francs CFA (equivalent to 4,988 USD) for press offences. The repressive provisions sparked protests and condemnations from the press and media houses. Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and its national partner organisations petitioned President Ouattara on 22nd May to withdraw article 90 of the draft law. On 29th May, the government decided to “temporarily withdraw” the draft for further consideration, initially set to be discussed at the plenary session of the National Assembly on 31st May. Executive Director of MFWA Sulemana Braimah commented on the government's move, saying that:
‘’The withdrawal of the bill is a welcome news. It is indeed a sign of a progressive and listening government. We, however, hope it is not just a means of calming down tempers so the bill can be reintroduced later and passed with all the repressive elements still present’’.
On 1st August, the authorities released two journalists after they had been detained for 48 hours allegedly for "spreading false news". The two journalists, Dan Opeli and Yves Kuyo, work for the opposition newspaper Le Quotidien. Their detention took place after publishing an article claiming that the speaker of the National Assembly was under investigation and that his bank accounts had been frozen. Opeli and Kuyo have been summoned to the Court of First Instance on 20th October 2017. Detaining the journalists is in violation of the 2004 Press Law, which decriminalised press offences and does not allow for the detention of journalists. However, this is not the first time journalists have been illegally detained. Previously on 12th February 2017, six journalists were detained on charges of "publishing false news" and "inciting army personnel to insubordination and rebellion". They were provisionally released on 14th February.
Association des Femmes et Familles des Détenus d’Opinion (Association of Women and Families of the Detained of Opinion), released a statement on 28th July denouncing the arbitrary detention of 306 Ivorians since 2011 for exercising their right to freedom of expression. The Association called for their immediate release.
On 28th April 2017, the prefect of Akouré suspended the “freedom party” organised by the Ivorian Popular Front (FPI Opposition), citing “risks of public disorder” that could be caused by the event planned the following two days. The FPI Opposition still held its gathering as scheduled, and police officers were sent to the event in an attempt to dissuade people from participating.
On 2nd May 2017, police officers used tear gas to disperse a demonstration held by 200 students, parents and members of the Fédération estudiantine et scolaire de Côte d’Ivoire (Federation of Students and Scholars of Cote d’Ivoire). The protesters had gathered in front of the Office of Exams to demand a timetable for their thesis defences, which is needed to validate their diplomas.