Cote d'Ivoire: Why Has Newspaper Publisher Been Held for Nearly Nine Months?

press release

Photo: http://www.irinnews.org/
An Ivorian soldier on patrol.

Reporters Without Borders condemns newspaper publisher Ousmane Sy Savané's prolonged detention in Abidjan's main prison, usually referred to by the acronym of Maca. Savané is CEO of Cyclone, a company that publishes the opposition newspapers Le Temps and Lg Infos and the arts and culture magazine Prestige.

"How is it possible that, nearly nine months after the start of his detention in the Maca, Savané has still not been brought before an investigating judge for questioning on the substance of the charge against him," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire asked.

Calling for Savané's immediate release, Deloire added: "We urge President Alassane Ouattara, who also heads the Judiciary High Council, and the new communication minister, Affoussiata Bamba-Lamine, who is responsible for the media, to provide an explanation for this prolonged detention."

Reporters Without Borders was able to pay Savané a two-hour visit at the Maca on 15 December. He is lodged in its VIP wing, where he receives regular visits from family member and colleagues. He is well but refuses to eat the Maca food, which he says is bad. The VIP wing's inmates cooperate in getting food delivered from outside and cooking for themselves.

Savané said he is impatient to appear before the investigating judge. He believes the authorities have no evidence to support the charges against him.

Savané returned to Côte d'Ivoire in January after several months in exile in Paris. He was arrested by the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST), an intelligence agency, on 27 March and was transferred to the Maca a few days later on a charge of "endangering state security."

He was briefly brought before investigating judge Koné Mamadou at that time, to give a semblance of legality to his detention, but he was not questioned about the substance of the charge.

In a press release in July, Reporters Without Borders said: "The authorities have yet to produce hard evidence of any involvement by Savané in activities aimed at destabilizing the country and everything suggests that he is being held because of his close association with Nady Bamba, Cyclone's former sponsor and former President Laurent Gbagbo's second wife." During interrogation at the DST in March, Savané was questioned about his family links with Nady Bamba although Bamba no longer has any involvement in her former activities in Côte d'Ivoire.

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that Yacouba Gbané, the managing editor of Lg Infos, was summoned to gendarmerie headquarters in the Abidjan district of Yopougon this morning.

And in a separate development, Reporters Without Borders hails the progress made by the government and the National Union of Côte d'Ivoire journalists (UNJCI) in facilitating the return from exile of several journalists who were close to the former Gbagbo government.

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