Ensure the Freedom the Press and Plurality of Expression (CI0012)
Action Plan: Côte d’Ivoire Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Ministry of Communication
Support Institution(s): Ministry for Human Rights and Public Freedoms the regulatory bodies in the Communication sector; Civil Society Organizations; All press institutions;
Policy AreasCivic Space, Human Rights, Media & Telecommunications
Current Situation or problem/question to be addressed/having to be resolved: Television market not liberalized; Main purpose: Ensure free press and plurality of expression; Brief description of the commitment: - Liberalization of the television sector -financial and material support to print media; OGP challenges addressed by the commitment: Increase in public integrity; Relevance: -diversify audiovisual content -encourage access to information -Guarantee freedom of press by opening the audiovisual landscape, the Government ensures diversity of opinions ( diversity of contents and editorial lines), strengthens the right to information By supporting media companies through Press Development Support Fund (FSDP) particularly by granting subsidies, the Government encourages access to information and reaffirms its commitment to democracy and freedom of expression.
IRM Midterm Status Summary
12. Ensure the freedom of the press and plurality of expression
- Brief description of the Commitment
- Liberalization of the television sector;
- Financial and material support to print media.
Quantifiable and verfiable stages for implemention of the commitment. Grant-making
12.1. Liberalization of the television sector
Responsible institution: Ministry of Communication Supporting institution: Ministry of Communication Start date: 2009
End date: continuing
Context and Objectives
This commitment aims to encourage freedom of the press and the diversity of expression within it.1 The press in Côte d’Ivoire is not completely free. For example, in 2016, two journalists from the news site Koaci were imprisoned for 'broadcasting fake news'2 after talking about political prisoners in the country. In 2017, the government put pressure on the Expression newspaper to fire journalist Bernard Kra, who had voiced his opinion on the increase in the price of public services. In that same year, six journalists were arrested for reporting a military mutiny. Before this, in 2016, Kra had been suspended for writing 'President, this is a serious time, beware of the social bomb.'3
This commitment aims to work through two actions. Firstly, it will allocate grants to the press working in print to help newspapers distribute their papers more widely. According to the cabinet director of the Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, in Côte d’Ivoire, there were problems regarding the content of newspapers, which was very political, and problems of distribution and professionalism in the sector.4 Secondly, it aims to liberalize the television sector. Two existing national channels have a state bias, according to a member of the Ivorian League for Human Rights,5 which specializes in freedom of the press. That member also claims that the news is tailor-made to please the government. Citizens were obliged to turn to foreign satellite channels to find news about their country. He also says that there is a real need for news to reflect reality.
This commitment concerns citizens’ access to information. According to civil society representatives, conditions for setting up television channels should be made easier. Civil society also states that restrictions should be lifted to allow the channels to cover political questions and to encourage debate, which is a sign of democracy.
The potential impact of this commitment is low. According to a member of the Ivorian League for Human Rights,6 this commitment should serve to de-penalize offenses committed by the press and to diversify expression. However, without knowing what form this liberalization will take, concerns remain that private operators are not permitted to broadcast on certain subjects.
12.1. The allocation of printing grants: This milestone has been completed. According to the representative from the Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, the conditions for receiving the newspaper printing grant have been established by decree and are strictly applied. He adds that, to date, these conditions have not been respected and that grants have been allocated to presses that do not meet the criteria.7 However, the president insisted that the criteria be objective to avoid such challenges.8 This grant is allocated by the Development Support Fund (FSDP), which acts as a sort of guarantee fund. As stated by the government representative, this fund held 700 million CFA francs in 2015 and 1.7 billion in 2017. As planned, the sum should increase this year.
According to Chantal Angoua:9 'Côte d’Ivoire, through FSDP, provided in 2017 a six months of printing subsidy to newspapers to 22 private companies across all types of press for a total of a little over 701 million CFAs. The amount of subsidies of activities in the public interest, of the functioning of professional organizations is more than 338 CFAs to 12 organizations. To this amount, one can add the financing of journalists and communications professionals training, of more than 40 million CFAs and the budget to a borrowing fund guarantee of more than 164 million CFAs. Together this brings the total contribution of FSDP to the private media sector for 2017 to 1,245 billion CFA.' This information was confirmed by various press articles.10
According to a member of the Ivorian League for Human Rights, which specializes in freedom of the press,11 to receive this grant, an organization must—among other stipulations—be a legally established body, be up to date with taxes, have a majority of professional journalists within its organization, and have a pyramid organization with a press magnate at the head. All the grant conditions for the written press and audiovisual communication channels are available on FSDP’s website.12 Eligibility criteria are also available online.13
12.2. Liberalization of the television sector: This milestone was completed before the implementation period. According to representatives from the Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, three new satellite channels have been introduced,14 four permits have been granted,15 and two new operators have been identified.16 The ministry provided the IRM researcher with an extract from a Council of Ministers communication concerning a decree on the creation of an Ivorian broadcasting company, named Ivorienne de Télédiffusion. According to the deputy director from the ministry, the involvement of civil society in the implementation of this milestone will be put to the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication. Implementation was supposed to have been completed in May 2018.
According to the member of the Ivorian League for Human Rights,17 this commitment has encouraged the de-penalization of offenses by the press. It encourages a diversity of expression and support to the press from private and legal structures. The passing of a law in June 2017 for the liberalization of the television sector also played a part in this support. The league member added that private operators were not permitted to broadcast on certain subjects. The civil society representatives noted that18 restricting television channels does not encourage a culture of democracy. The league member19 added
that a deposit of 500 million CFA—demanded before setting up any new television channel—was too high, acted as a deterrent, and must be renegotiated. A November 2016 article20 mentions a minimum of a billion FCFA, or 1.52 million euros, and a minimum capital of 100 million FCFA, or just over 152,000 euros, being asked of any interested companies. As the Ivorian League for Human Rights points out,21 true liberalization of the television sector cannot be assessed at this time, because of all the previously stated limitations. A 27 December 2017 law related to legal rights for the press will be discussed in the end-of-term report.
According to the deputy director of the Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, there is obvious support for the press, but it does not work. The deputy director feels that some press agencies flaunt the law but continue to receive the grants. The law will be strictly applied from now on, according to him.
On another note, according to a Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI) website article, the RTI license fee is justified by the minister of communication, digital economy, and post as being a patriotic act and a national contribution.22 The license fee is set at 2,000 CFA and paid via electricity bills.
The IRM researcher recommends that in the next action plan, the liberalization of the television sector be the object of a specific commitment, with specific milestones that are clear, quantifiable, and verifiable. For example, the milestones could call for the review of the specifications for promoters who wish to introduce a new channel in Côte d’Ivoire. Among other things, goals for openness and the liberalization of television content should be included.
1 Ahmed Sako, Deputy Cabinet Director, Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, interview by IRM researcher, 5 February 2018.
2 'Côte d’Ivoire: Michel Gbagbo Inculpé pour 'Divulgation de Fausses Nouvelles,' Jeune Afrique, 26 May 2016, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/328756/societe/cote-divoire-michel-gbagbo-inculpe-divulgation-de-fausses-nouvelles/.
3 'Côte d’Ivoire–Le Journaliste Kra Bernard Suspend pour Avoir Ecrit ‘President l’Heure est Grave!’' Connection Ivoirienne, 26 April 2016, https://http://www.connectionivoirienne.net/117800/cote-divoire-journaliste-kra-bernard-suspendu-decriture-ecrit- president-lheure-grave.
4 Ahmed Sako, Deputy Cabinet Director, Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, interview by IRM researcher, 5 February 2018.
5 Kouadjo Moro, Deputy General Secretary, Commission for Citizen Control of Public Policy, Ivorian Human Rights League, , telephone conversation with IRM researcher, 23 April 2018.
7 Ahmed Sako, Deputy Cabinet Director, Ministry of Communication, Digital Economy, and Post, interview by IRM researcher, 5 February 2018.
9 Chantal Angoua, Technical Advisor, Ministry of Industry and Mines, point of contact for the OGP process, comments on the progress report received by IRM researcher 18 June 2018.
10 'Côte d’Ivoire/ Des dons et Subventions d’Une Valeur de Plus d’un Milliard FCFA du FSDP à la Presse,' Agence Ivoirienne de Presse, 3 November 2017; 'La Subvention à la Presse en Côte-d’Ivoire Passe de 595 Millions à un Milliard de FCFA en 2018 (Ouattara),' Connectionvioirienne.net, 25 January 2018, https://http://www.connectionivoirienne.net/132278/la-subvention-a-la- presse-en-cote-divoire-passe-de-595-millions-a-un-milliard-de-fcfa-en-2018-ouattara; and '22 Entreprises de Presse Privées et des Associations Reçoivent des Subventions-Côte d’Ivoire,' AfrikiPresse, 3 November 2017, http://www.afrikipresse.fr/societe/22-entreprises-de-presse-privees-et-des- associations-recoivent-des-subventions-cote-d- ivoire.
11 Kouadjo Moro, Deputy General Secretary, Commission for Citizen Control of Public Policy, Ivorian Human Rights League, telephone conversation with IRM researcher, 23 April 2018.
14 Baudelaire Mieu, 'Télévision: Trois Nouveaux Concurrents pour Canal+ en Côte d’Ivoire,' Jeune Afrique, 1 March 2016, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/306605/economie/trois-nouveaux-concurrents-canal-cote-ivoire/.
15 'Côte d’Ivoire: Quatre Chaînes de Télévision Privées Autorisées à Émettre dans le Pays,' Jeune Afrique, 15 December 2016, http://www.jeuneafrique.com/384123/economie/cote-divoire-quatre-chaines-de-television-privees- autorisees-a-emettre-pays/. 16 'L’identité des Trois Nouveaux Opérateurs de Réseau de Distribution de Bouquet Dévoilée,' Abidjan.net, 29 February 2016, http://news.abidjan.net/h/583356.html.
17 Kouadjo Moro, Deputy General Secretary, Commission for Citizen Control of Public Policy, Ivorian Human Rights League, telephone conversation with IRM researcher, 23 April 2018.
18 Civil society representative, interview by IRM researcher, 2018, followed by email and phone exchanges.
19 Kouadjo Moro, Deputy General Secretary, Commission for Citizen Control of Public Policy, Ivorian Human Rights League, telephone conversation with IRM researcher, 23 April 2018.
20 Georges Moihet, 'Côte d’Ivoire: Bientôt Une Dizaine de Télés Privées Autorisées,' Le360Afrique.com, 9 November 2016, http://afrique.le360.ma/cote-divoire/medias/2016/11/09/7396-cote-divoire-bientot-une-dizaine-de-teles-privees-autorisees-7396. 21 Kouadjo Moro, Deputy General Secretary, Commission for Citizen Control of Public Policy, Ivorian Human Rights League, telephone conversation with IRM researcher, 23 April 2018.
22 'Côte d’Ivoire: Le Déploiement de la TNT s'Achèvera fin Mars 2018 (Bruno Koné),' Radio Télévision Ivoirienne, http://www.rti.ci/info/5/Hightech/19296/cote-divoire-le-deploiement-de-la-tnt-sachevera-fin- mars-2018-bruno-kone.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 12: Ensure the freedom the press and plurality of expression
Brief Description of the commitment:
- Liberalization of the television sector
- Financial and material support to print media
Measurable and verifiable steps to achieve the commitment
12.2. Liberalization of the television sector
Responsible Institution(s): Ministry of Communication
Supporting Institution(s): Ministry of Communication
Start Date: 2009 End Date: Continuous
Action Plan is available here:
The objective of this commitment is to optimize press freedom and plurality of expression. More specifically, the commitment sets out to: (i) award grants to written press so as to allow wider distribution of newspapers; and (ii) open the television space.
The government completely implemented this commitment by midterm. A decree determines conditions for awarding newspaper printing grants. The Fund of Assistance to Press Development distributes this grant, which acts more or less as a guarantee fund. According to a government spokesperson,  this fund amounted to FCFA 700 million in 2015, FCFA 1.7 billion in 2017, and is expected to increase this year again. During 2017, a six-month newspaper grant of FCFA 701 million was distributed to 22 private press companies regardless of the publication style. With respect to the commitment’s aim to open the television space, three additional satellite channels were added, four licenses were granted, and two channel operators were identified. For more information, please see the 2016-2018 IRM midterm report. 
End of term: Complete
The government completely implemented both milestones by midterm.
Did It Open Government?
Access to information: Did not change
Civic participation: Did not change
Public accountability: Did not change
This commitment addresses the free circulation of information in society but, as written, it does not have clear relevance to OGP core values and did not change government practices in access to information, civic participation, or public accountability. Through this commitment, the government disbursed grants to the written press and opened television space. The government’s objective was to allow a greater distribution of quality newspapers, in response to the reputation of Ivorian newspapers generally being highly politicized, poorly distributed, and lacking professionalism. 
According to a journalist,  however, the government plans to suspend newspaper grants after the implementation period because the new minister of communication and media has decided to shift financial assistance from printing companies to a paper distribution company in Côte d’Ivoire. The press community planned various demonstrations, namely a “no press” day as well as a strike of press actors.  The press community ultimately cancelled these events due to ongoing mediation between the government and the Association of Press Editors in Côte d’Ivoire (GEPCI). The same journalist indicated that the government should go further in press liberalization by assisting the press’ digitization.
The commitment was, in part, carried into the new national action plan for 2018−2020. As recommended by the IRM researcher in the progress report, Commitment 10 in the new action plan aims to open television space. Support for print media was not carried forward.