Eleven unions representing the Ivorian news media issued a press release in which they accused state prosecutor Richard Adou of abusing his power by prosecuting journalists who are seen to be close to the opposition. This came after the editors of two daily newspapers, Soir Info and Le Nouveau Réveil, were each fined about US$4,100 for “spreading false news”. The two dailies had published a letter by the lawyers representing opposition leader Alain Lobognon—sentenced to prison for a “fake news” tweet—about his failing health due to difficult conditions in detention. In the past month, unjustified fines have also been imposed on other journalists after summary proceedings. A spokesman for the unions, Sam Wakouboué, said the papers reported on news from both sides of the political divide, and they feared the action of the state prosecutor would financially impact the newspapers, which were already weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why It Matters
Ahead of the presidential election slated to be held on October 31, much has been written about the increasingly undemocratic behavior of President Alassane Ouattara and the ruling RHDP political alliance. Members of the political opposition have been arrested or face arrest warrants on similarly spurious charges as Alain Lobognon, and attacks against independent newspapers have grown more frequent as the election draws nearer. The is still recovering from a disastrous civil war that followed the disputed 2010 Ivorian presidential election. Political stability in Côte d’Ivoire is essential for stability in the wider region, which is facing a dual threat of terrorist violence emanating from the Sahel and the COVID-19 pandemic.