Feb. 13, 2017 (GIN) – A “tweet storm” coming from the nation’s White House is pummeling reporters, editors and publishers who have been standing up for “real facts” not “alternative facts” in their coverage of the current administration.
Similarly, media workers in the Ivory Coast are facing harsh punishment for what the government calls “spreading false information” about a mutiny by the military. Six journalists, including three media owners, have been arrested for the offense.
Last week, the Ivorian public prosecutor took to the airwaves to accuse the detained journalists with sedition. “We have come to believe that certain media organizations are spreading false information in a bid to encourage soldiers to revolt,” the public prosecutor broadcast said in a broadcast on national television.
His statement came after elite forces became the latest troops to strike over unpaid bonuses in recent weeks, firing their weapons into the air in the army barracks town of Adiake.
The editor and owner of the independent dailies L’Inter and SoirInfo were arrested and held by police in the capital Abidjan, along with the editors and owners of the opposition newspapers Le Temps and Notre Voie.
The journalists will be questioned to “find out where responsibility lies” for the alleged false information, the prosecutor said.
A mutiny of 8,400 soldiers reported in Bouake, the country’s second largest city, was allegedly triggered by the government’s failure to pay bonuses promised years ago. A deal was since brokered giving the soldiers 19 million CFAs, the equivalent of about $20,000 each.
Other rebellions followed in Abidjan and lately in Adiaké. This time, the government denied it would pay the bonus of 17 million CFA francs demanded by 2,600 mutineers of the Special Forces. By publishing this verified account, the media workers were arrested on suspicion of inciting rebellion among the military, attacking state authority and publishing false information relating to defense.
While the west African nation has largely been peaceful since Mr Alassane Ouattara became president in 2011 after French troops and local rebels put down a bloody post-election conflict, the president has ignored the unrest emanating from the army which is a patchwork of former warlords and their loyal men.
“Everyone wants to say ‘everything is good in Ivory Coast,’ a foreign security official said. But “make no mistake. This is a divided army and a fragile state.”
Also claiming unpaid wages, unions representing some 200,000 civil servants jointly launched a strike over salary arrears of roughly $400 million, inspired by last month’s mutiny. They returned to work after three weeks but continue to negotiate with the government.
“If there’s money, give it to us too,” said Theodore Gnagna Zadi, a union leader.
Although the strike was planned for months, it was the government’s “poor handling” of the mutiny that spurred the civil servants to action, he said.
In a related matter, striking workers at the Randgold mines in the country’s southern and northern zones, have returned to work. According to Randgold, its Tongon mine was targeted by an “illegal sit-in” instigated by “some employees demanding annual bonuses.”
Randgold Resources owns 89% of the highly profitable mine, the state of Cote d’Ivoire 10% and 1% is held by a local company.