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Côte d’Ivoire: Journalists opposed to press bill

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Opposed to the adoption on Friday of a new draft law on the press, providing for imprisonment of journalists for one to five years, officials of professional organizations and media freedom in Cote d’Ivoire have called on the government to “reopen discussions” with a view to “developing more consensual texts”.

“The leaders of all professional media organizations are strongly opposed to the adoption of these draft laws,” said a note signed by 13 organizations including the Press Publishers’ Group (GEPCI), the National Union (SYNAPPCI), the National Union of Journalists (UNJCI), and the Observatory on Freedom of the Press, Ethics and Professional Conduct (OLPED).

On Friday, MEPs adopted in committee two draft laws on the press and audiovisual communication. The new text on the press provides for imprisonment of between one and five years, and a fine of between 300,000 (US$600) and 3 million (US$ 6000) CFA francs for anyone who “affects the security of the State and defends war crimes and crimes against humanity, incites robbery, plunder, murder, violence, xenophobia, hatred in all its forms’, through the press.

These organizations say they are “surprised by the government’s intentions to restrict media freedom”, saying that “these laws outrageously question the decriminalization of press offenses acquired” in 2004. For them, the texts “do not take into account the recommendations of the General Assembly of the press held in 2012 and the seminar of Grand-Bassam in 2014”, during which “points of consensus were reached for the amendments of the said laws”

Journalists invited the government to “reopen discussions with media players” to “develop more consensual draft laws”. On Friday, they protested against the adoption of the new law on the press by waving a banner in the middle of the meeting, which read “No to imprisonment of journalists”, during the presentation of the text by the Minister of Communication, Bruno Koné.

They then withdrew from the National Assembly, after they were forbidden to brandish this banner, denouncing Article 90, on imprisonment of journalists.  According to Mr. Koné, this article “is not a creation” but “a transposition of an article existing in the penal code”.

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