Media Reform: Abidjan Peace Agreement

ARTICLE 19

To foster national reconciliation and ensure the full and unrestricted participation of the RUF/SL in the political process, the RUF/SL shall enjoy:
(i) Freedom of the press and access to the media in order that they may be heard and informed.

Implementation History

1996

No Implementation

No media reforms were undertaken following the accord. Despite numerous promises to protect free speech and freedom of the press made in 1996, "the government of President Kabbah has shown intolerance toward criticism of its policies or officials by banning newspapers that publish uncomplimentary articles and detaining journalists. The frequent use of criminal libel and sedition charges against independent journalists has encouraged self-censorship, and the imposition of heavy fines is financially crippling the private press." Torchlight, a new independent newspaper, was shutdown and officially banned on the day of its first issue which contained a story critical of the President. 1 

1997

No Implementation

In 1997, an increasing number of journalists were arrested for critical coverage of the President and other officials. According to the Committee to Project Journalists, 1997 was characterized by a serious crackdown on the media:

"The proposed press law amendments include provisions requiring editors to have 10 years' prior experience in journalism, five of them in an editorial capacity, and all journalists to hold a degree in their field. Members of the press would be subject to police certification. And a proposed measure directed at controlling publications that the government regards as radical would require newspapers that began circulation after February 1996 to re-register. On May 6, the parliament passed the first section of these amendments to the press law, known as the Newspaper Act of 1997, by an overwhelming majority. The Media Practitioner's Act of 1997 passed unanimously on May 12. Both bills will now go to Kabbah to be signed into law."2

1998

No Implementation

At least 20 reporters were imprisoned in 1998 for critical coverage of the government's handling of the war.3

In 1998, the former government ousted the RUF/AFRC government. RUF and the former government returned to full scale civil war in 1998.4

Coding for this case ceased on December 31, 1998.