Côte d’Ivoire: UN mission concerned about media behaviour

Côte d’Ivoire: UN mission concerned about media behaviour

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has expressed deep concern about the country’s media on two fronts – the growing number of inflammatory articles in the press and at the same time an increasing number of violent attacks against publications.

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) has expressed deep concern about the country’s media on two fronts – the growing number of inflammatory articles in the press and at the same time an increasing number of violent attacks against publications.

The recent series of inflammatory articles in the Ivorian press “does not serve the peace process and in fact constitutes a drawback in comparison with the positive environment which had not been noted in the media just after the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement” in March, UNOCI said in a statement issued yesterday in Abidjan.

That accord, signed by Guillaume Soro – who has since become Ivorian Prime Minister – and President Laurent Gbagbo, is an attempt to heal the divide in Côte d’Ivoire, which has been split between the Government-controlled south and the rebel Forces Nouvelles-held north since 2002.

The pact calls, among other steps, for: creating a new transitional government; organizing free and fair presidential elections; merging the Forces Nouvelles and the national defence and security forces through the establishment of an integrated command centre; dismantling the militias, disarming ex-combatants and enrolling them in civil services programmes; and replacing the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south with a green line to be monitored by UNOCI.

In its statement on the media, UNOCI noted that the Ouagadougou agreement calls on “the national and international press to accompany the strengthening of peace and spirit of tolerance in a useful way.”

While underlining the importance of freedom of the press in the West African country, the statement added that both journalists and the owners of publications show display more responsibility and professionalism when covering events.

UNOCI also described the increasing attacks recently against press organs in Abidjan, the Ivorian commercial capital, as intolerable and “a violation of freedom of the press and the population’s right to information.”

The Mission urged local authorities to take urgent steps to end “this cycle of attacks,” including by identifying the culprits and bringing them to justice.