Investigative journalist pressured into revealing sources, detained overnight; activist arrested
Urgent !!! #CIV225— CENOZO (@CENOZO_Afrique) July 13, 2022
En Côte d'Ivoire, le journaliste d'investigation Noël Konan est poursuivi pour diffamation par @GroupeNsia. Après son audition ce mardi, il est placé en garde à vue. @CPJAfrica @RSF_fr #JournalismIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/ommo3iAkAe
Investigative journalist pressured into revealing sources, detained overnight
On 30th June 2022, police informally interrogated investigative reporter Noël Konan about the sources of one of Konan’s tweets on an alleged theft involving a branch of the bank NSIA in Daoukro. Two weeks later, on 13th July 2022, Konan was again interrogated and was taken into police custody when he refused to reveal his sources for the basis of his tweet. He was only released the following day. The journalist was detained despite press offences being decriminalised in Côte d’Ivoire: article 89 of the 2017 Press Law prohibits preventive detention and imprisonment for “offences committed via the press or any other means of publication, subject to any other applicable legal provision”. Sadibou Marong of Reporters without Borders (RSF) commented:
“The proceedings against Noël Konan were prejudiced from the start because he was taken into police custody and Côte d’Ivoire’s law forbids detaining journalists for press offences. The irregularities that have marked this case will not reassure journalists who are trying to do investigative reporting and to protect their sources.”
Konan was ordered to pay a fine of three million francs CFA (4,975 USD) following a defamation suit by NSIA Bank on 18th July 2022.
Civil society activist arrested
On 22nd August 2022, police officers arrested Pulchérie Edith Gbalet, president of the CSO Alternative Citoyenne Ivorienne (ACI) and placed her in preventive detention. Gbalet was reportedly invited by the General Direction of the National Police to collect her passport and telephone confiscated weeks earlier during a brief detention and interrogation on her return from Mali on 3rd August 2022. The civil society activist is accused of “entente with agents of a foreign power likely to harm the military and diplomatic situation of Côte d’Ivoire”. Before being presented before a judge, a search was conducted at Gbalet’s home, without a search warrant, on 23rd August 2022, in violation of articles 5 and 6 of law 2014-388 of 20th June 2014 on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders.
The latest arrest is related to Gbalet’s trip to Mali, where, according to news reports, she met with CSOs and individuals close to the military junta in power regarding the 46 Ivorian soldiers who have been detained in Mali since 10th July 2022. The Malian government accused the 46 soldiers of being mercenaries and they were charged with “attempted attack on state security”.