Six journalists were arrested in Ivory Coast [government website, in French] on Sunday and charged with “spreading false information,” according to media outlets [Abidjan report, in French] and public prosecutors. The journalists, including three media owners, allegedly published stories designed to incite further mutiny by security forces in the country who are protesting over compensation. The alleged “false news” appeared in Le Temps, Notre Voie and L’Inter and SoirInfo [websites]. Multiple publishing groups in the country have condemned the arrests and called for the journalists, who are currently being held in the capital city Abidjan, to be released. Among those demanding their release is Patrice Yao, president of the Groupement des Editeurs de Presse de Côte d’Ivoire, who said in a statement, “The professional organizations … strongly condemn the arbitrary and unlawful detention of their colleagues and demand their unconditional release.”
The Ivory Coast has faced turmoil since 2010 when former president Laurent Gbagbo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] lost his second presidential race to former prime minister Alassane Ouattara [BBC profile]. In January, UN Independent Expert Mohammed Ayat described [JURIST report] some of the challenges that Ivory Coast must face as the UN Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) withdraws from the country.The EU recognized that Ouattara defeated Gbagbo, but Gbagbo refused to concede victory [JURIST report]. Gbagbo has been accused [JURIST report] of starting a civil war after losing the presidency, which resulted in 3,000 deaths and the displacement of one million people. Voters in the Ivory Coast successfully approved [JURIST report] a new constitution last year. In November, Oattara signed [JURIST report] the constitution into law. Amid political tensions, the Ivory Coast continues to host human rights violations. In July, the UN released a report [JURIST report] claiming that the Ivory Coast needed to make greater efforts to prevent and punish rape. In May, the Human Rights Watch called [JURIST report] for the trial of the former Ivory Coast first lady to be credible, fair, and followed by the trials of other high-level rights abusers.