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A number of Ivory Coast journalists and media owners have found themselves on unfamiliar grounds for telling facts as they are and ought to be. They are now facing harsh punishment for what the Ivorian government is terming as “spreading false information” regarding the mutiny which was staged by members of the uniformed forces.
By the time of going to press, at least six journalists, including three media owners, had already been arrested by the Ivorian authorities.
A group of reporters, editors and publishers in the West African country are being punished for standing up for “real facts” and not “alternative facts” in covering current Ivory Coast administration.
In an interview with the national broadcaster, the Ivorian public prosecutor accused the arrested media practitioners with sedition.
The prosecutor’s sentiments came a few days after the country’s elite forces became the latest to join the strike over promised and unpaid bonuses. They fired into the air at the army barracks in Adiake as a way of registering their dissatisfaction in the whole issue.
Editors and owners of two independent dailies, L’Inter and SoirInfo, were arrested and held by police just as their counterparts from the rival newspapers Notre Voie and Le Temps.
The prosecutor said that those arrested will be interrogated to “find out where the responsibility lies” as far as the alleged false information is concerned.
A mutiny of 8,400 soldiers reported in Bouake, the country’s second largest city, was allegedly caused by the government’s failure to honor the promise of paying them bonuses years ago. A deal was brokered giving the soldiers 19 million CFAs, the equivalent of about $20,000 each.
Other rebellions were witnessed in Abidjan and lately in Adiaké.
However, the Ivory Coast government has refused to pay 17 million CFA francs bonus that the 2,600 Special Forces mutineers are demanding. This is the verified account that the journalists published and got arrested on grounds of inciting rebellion within the military, publishing false information touching on defense and attacking state authority.
In spite of the fact that Ivory Coast has been quite peaceful since the sitting President Alassane Ouattara took power back in 2011 in the wake of a bloody post-election conflict, the head of state has largely played down the unrest coming from within the army which, by itself, is a patchwork of former warlords and their loyal men.
According to a foreign security official, everyone, especially the authority in Ivory Coast, wants to say and believe that everything is fine but the biting fact is that the army is split right down the middle.
Meanwhile, more than 200,000 civil servants, through their respective unions, downed their tools demanding salary arrears of roughly $400 million. They returned to work three weeks into the strike. They are, however, continuing talks with the government.
“If there’s money, give it to us too,” said Theodore Gnagna Zadi, a union leader.
The Ivorian government has been blamed for poor handling of the mutiny allowing it to spread and also forcing the civil servants to strike.
Credit: GIN and edited by Sam O. Abuya