Reporters Without Borders gave a news conference at the Abidjan Press Centre on 10 November to present the preliminary findings of its monitoring of the Ivorian media during the campaign for the first round of the country’s presidential election, which ran from 15 to 29 October.
The organization also offered recommendation to the media regulatory bodies and the media themselves as regards coverage of the 20-26 November campaign for the second-round runoff between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and the head of Rally of the Republicans (RDR), Alassane Ouattara.
Reporters Without Borders announced that it would write to the two second-round candidates in the next few days urging them to undertake to scrupulously respect media freedom and guarantee media diversity, especial in the broadcast media, if elected.
Before an audience of about 60 Ivorian and foreign journalists, civil society representatives and members of the international community, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard hailed the first round as “generally calm and free of excesses” except for the problems with state-owned Radio Côte d’Ivoire (RCI) and the main state-owned TV channel, La Première.
“The lack of attempts to smear the various candidates, aside from a few articles in the privately-owned partisan press, was a very positive point,” Julliard said. “La Première and RCI nonetheless need to correct the imbalances in air-time allocation seen during the first-round campaign. These two broadcast media must give Gbagbo and Ouattara equal treatment during the campaign for the second round.”
Jocelyn Grange, the head of the Reporters Without Borders media monitoring project, introduced his team of observers and, with the help of charts, presented the preliminary results of the first-round monitoring.
Reporters Without Borders hailed the neutral tone used by the public broadcast media in their campaign coverage but stressed that President Gbagbo was given much more air-time that the other candidates.
The organization congratulated the public-service daily Fraternité Matin for fulfilling its duty to its readers to offer balanced and unbiased information about the 14 candidates, but deplored the extremely partisan coverage of three privately-owned dailies, Notre Voie, Le Patriote and Le Nouveau Réveil, which were at times guilty of outright excesses.
Reporters Without Borders called on RCI and La Première (the main TV channel of the public broadcaster RTI) to ensure that they provide more reasonable coverage of President Gbagbo’s activities during the second-round campaign.
The organization finally urged the National Press Council (CNP) to continue to supervise the print media with the utmost vigilance and called on the National Broadcasting Council (CNCA) to perform its regulatory role with more impartiality.
Download the PDF version of the press kit (in French) that was given to journalists at the Abidjan news conference :
Mission Reporters Without Borders began monitoring the Ivorian media on 15 October and will continue to do so until the end of the presidential election. Its quantitative and qualitative monitoring is being carried out in Abidjan by a team of observers, who are evaluating the air-time that the public radio and TV stations allocate to the political parties and movements participating in the election. They are also evaluating the space allocated by the public-service daily Fraternité Matin and a number of privately-owned dailies. The aim is to ensure respect for the principle of fairness in the state media and balance in the privately-owned media.
Methodology Reporters Without Borders is observing and measuring the air-time that the candidates get in all the French-language programmes relating to the elections on the public TV station La Première and the public radio station Radio Côte d’Ivoire (RCI). As regards the print media, it is measuring and comparing the column space that each candidate and their supporters and allies get in the public-service daily Fraternité Matin and in a number of privately-owned dailies: Le Nouveau Réveil, Le Patriote and Notre Voie during the first-round campaign, and L’Intelligent d’Abidjan, Soir Info and L’Inter during the second-round campaign. It is also carrying out a qualitative evaluation of the tone used by the journalists and media in their references to the candidates.