Wednesday, in Ivory Coast, hundreds of members of the pro-government militia, the Young Patriots, took over state television and radio. They also reportedly broke into a community radio station and damaged the equipment.
Julia Crawford is a spokeswoman for the Committee to Protect Journalists. From New York, she gave English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua an update on the state of the media in Ivory Coast.
“According to the news reports we’re getting now, the situation has not changed. The Young Patriots are still in control of the national radio and television station. That’s despite a call last night by President Laurent Gbagbo, whom they support, for calm to return. According to the most recent reports from AFP (French news agency) and one of our contacts on the ground, the television station today still has been calling for reinforcements to come to the headquarters of RTI, the national broadcaster. There’s an on-screen message saying come and defend your television station,” she says.
The Young Patriots are calling on the United Nations and France to remove their forces from the country.
Also, the militia has knocked a community radio station off the air. Crawford says, “We were told that also yesterday, Young Patriots were besieging a community radio station in the central town of Daloa. They’d been there for several days apparently and had been demanding that the radio station allow them on air to broadcast a message calling for attacks on the UN base in Daloa. That’s according to a source I spoke to there. And the journalists at the station refused to allow them access. And finally yesterday, the (Young) Patriots carried out their threat. They broke down the entrance. They stormed in; they seized equipment, smashed equipment. There were scuffles between them and the journalists present.”
Seven journalists are said to have been at the radio station, but no injuries were reported. Crawford says the CPJ is “outraged” at the actions by the militia.