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UN Radio Defying Incumbent Ivorian Government Broadcast Ban


Ivory Coast's incumbent president has ordered the United Nations to stop domestic radio broadcasts.

Incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo's National Council on Audiovisual Communication revoked the broadcasting license for U.N. radio in keeping with Mr. Gbagbo's call for the entire U.N. mission to leave the country because he says it lost its neutrality after certifying his rival, Alassane Ouattara, as the winner of November's presidential election.

But the station's FM broadcasts continue throughout Ivory Coast in defiance of the incumbent government's ban.

"Not only have we not been notified officially of that decision, but secondly, we are operating within the U.N. mandate," said Sylvain Semilinko, the station's chief. "The UN mandate for UNOCI, which has been renewed last December by the Security Council."

In an interview with U.N. radio, Semilinko said it will be difficult for Mr.Gbagbo to enforce his decision to silence the station.

"The United Nations only recognizes Alassane Ouatarra as the elected President of Côte d'Ivoire and secondly, the transmitters of the radio are located in U.N. compounds throughout the country, which are secured by U.N. forces," said Semilinko. "So it might be very challenging for Mr. Gbagbo to implement this decision."

The Committee to Protect Journalists says Mr. Gbagbo is trying to silence critical and independent media under the cover of regulation. Semilinko says the incumbent government has become more repressive as Ivory Coast's political crisis deepens.

"They don't want freedom of speech, freedom of the press," said the U.N. radio station chief. "They don't want pluralism of opinions. So there is a kind of clamp down on the media. The other day, they changed the media regulatory body. And they wanted to close some papers. They have arrested journalists. That is the whole media landscape in Ivory Coast, the post-electoral era."

Mr. Gbagbo and Mr. Ouattara both claim the presidency of Ivory Coast. Mr. Gbagbo says he was re-elected when the constitutional council annulled as fraudulent nearly ten percent of all ballots cast. The electoral commission and the United Nations say Mr. Ouattara won.

Officials from the African Union met separately with both men this week and are now preparing a report for the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, South Africa, and Tanzania, who have been appointed by the African Union to come up with a way to end the crisis by the end of the month.

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