Reporters Without Borders is deeply disappointed by the remand in custody of Stéphane Guédé, Théophile Kouamouo, and Saint Claver Oula, journalists on the Nouveau Courrier d’Abidjan, after postponement of the verdict today by the Abidjan correctional tribunal.
The judges adjourned their verdict until 26 July but without providing any explanation to the journalists who were all present at the hearing.
20.07.2010 - Disturbing prosecution demand
Reporters Without Borders today expressed astonishment after three journalists on the Nouveau Courrier d’Abidjan, remanded in custody on 13 July 2010 accused of “theft of administrative documents” yesterday appeared before the Abidjan correctional court. See previous release.
The prosecutor called for a one-year prison sentence against all three journalists along with a fine of 10 million CFA Francs (about 15,250 euros). He also called for the daily to be suspended and for the confiscation of the computer on which the information had been handled
Stéphane Guédé, the publisher, Théophile Kouamouo, managing editor and Saint Claver Oula, the editor in chief, were appeared in connection with “theft of administrative documents, “publishing information about a legal file not yet before the court” and “disclosing a secret document”. The verdict was adjourned until 21 July.
“The prosecutor’s decisions in this case to remand the journalists in custody and then to take them before a judge are very surprising”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “Article 77 of the 2004 press freedom law which decriminalised all press offences means that journalists should only be fined for publishing information about a legal case not yet before the court”, it said. Only the national press council or a civil judge are competent to impose the fine.
“In treating it as a common-law offence and not as a press offence, the legal authorities have not respected Cote d’Ivoire law. These journalists should not be at risk of being sent to prison. We urge the authorities, guarantors of press freedom, to quickly put right this problem and try the journalists under Article 73.3 and 77 of the press freedom law”, said Reporters Without Borders.
The organisation also urged the authorities and the Ivorian justice system to respect the principles of journalistic ethics. The publication of documents, even confidential ones, is part of the basic work of a journalist and protecting their sources is one of the fundamental principles of the profession. Investigative journalism could not exist without these two conditions. The journalists in this case have done their job in a professional way, to inform Ivorians about a matter of public interest.