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Ivorian Opposition to Protest Outside State-Run Media

Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo (center) with supporters in Abidjan after he submitted his candidacy for presidential election, 16 October 2009

Opposition supporters in Ivory Coast plan to demonstrate Tuesday outside state-run television facilities. They say the broadcaster is giving preferential coverage to President Laurent Gbagbo and his ruling party before much-delayed presidential elections.

A coalition of young opposition supporters is demanding all political parties receive equal access to state-run media.

Rally of the Republicans Party youth leader, Karamoko Yayoro, says he frustrated by what he calls the continued marginalization of opposition candidates by the state broadcaster. His party supports candidate Alassane Ouattara, but other opposition candidates, like Henri Konan Bedie, have also given vocal support to the protesters.

He says news programs on state-run media only cover President Laurent Gbagbo's camp, his family and his supporters. He says that is the only image shown and the only voice heard on Ivorian television. He says this is not fair and that is why they are protesting.

A youth protest held earlier this month about the same issue was broken up by police. But Yayoro says protesters at the planned march will be unarmed and demonstrations will be peaceful.

He says they are not worried about security. Yayoro says the march has been authorized by the government and organizers have met with police and security forces to discuss the conditions and itinerary of the march. He says the demonstrators will also have security so that everything goes smoothly and calmly.

Yayoro said his generation has a historic role to play in ensuring the future of democracy and economic development in Ivory Coast. It is estimated that as many as half of Ivorians voting in the coming presidential poll will be under age 35, many of them voting for the first time.

The vote is an attempt to find a lasting political solution to nearly a decade of internal conflict, but voter registration issues have prompted Ivory Coast to push back the election several times since President Gbagbo's mandate ran out in 2005. The election is set to take place in March, but no date has been announced.