News / Africa

Watchdog Group Calls for Media Reform in Ivory Coast

Anne Look

The international media watchdog group, Reporters without Borders, is calling on Ivory Coast's two remaining presidential candidates to discourage media supporters from using inflammatory language during the run-off election and, if elected, to institute media reform.

Official campaigning kicks off Saturday for Ivory Coast's Nov. 28 presidential run-off between current president, Laurent Gbagbo, and former prime minister, Alassane Ouattara.

Reporters Without Borders has expressed concern that during the run-up to this second round of campaigning, several newspapers have revived topics and slogans that could fuel tensions, like ethnic issues.

Head of the group's media-monitoring project in Ivory Coast, Jocelyn Grange, said the media played a role in deepening the social divisions that led to the 2002-2003 civil war, specifically with regards to the issue of Ivorian nationality, which remains sensitive.

In letters to both candidates this week, Reporters Without Borders urged them to call on their supporters in the press "to refrain from insults, defamation, and hate messages."

The Paris-based media watchdog found that media coverage of the first round of campaigning in October was, for the most part, positive, with the exception of articles in a few privately-owned newspapers, many of whom are politically-affiliated.

However, the group gave public radio and television mixed reviews.

Project head, Jocelyn Grange, says the state-owned broadcasters covered all 14 candidates in a neutral manner. However, he says they found that current president Laurent Gbagbo got two, even three, times as much air time as the other candidates, mainly he says because state-run broadcasters covered Mr. Gbagbo's activities as head of state in a manner that monitors found excessive during an electoral campaign.

Reporters without Borders is calling on the country's next president to open up broadcasting, especially television, to the private sector. The state currently controls all of the radio and television stations that are authorized to broadcast news.

Reporters Without Borders has also called on the country's National Press Council to ensure that the second round of campaigning is covered in a responsible manner that respects journalistic ethics and the rules of media conduct.

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