Ivorian Press Council Suspends Two Reporters on Bribe Allegation

Ivory Coast’s press council suspended the head of the journalists’ union and another senior reporter for six months for allegedly trying to pay a newspaper to stop writing stories critical of a government minister.

National Union of Journalists President Moussa Traore and Alafe Wakili, editor-in-chief of privately owned L’Intelligent d’Abidjan newspaper, tried to bribe Antoine Assale Tiemoko, head of the satirical newspaper, L’Elephant Dechaine, the press regulator said in a Jan. 20 statement.

The press council said the two journalists offered Tiemoko 500,000 CFA Francs ($1,026) in November if his paper would stop writing articles critical of Niale Kaba, a minister delegated to the prime minister in charge of the economy. Tiemoko said in a phone interview yesterday that the journalists were acting on behalf of the minister.

Kaba’s chief of staff, Abou Gbane, didn’t answer 16 calls seeking comment today and yesterday. Both journalists said they would appeal the regulator’s decision.

“I don’t consider myself in any case of corruption,” Traore said by phone today, declining further comment on the allegations and the press council’s decision. “I stepped away as president of the union so as not to damage its image.”

The council accused Wakili of sending Traore to bribe Tiemoko.

“I don’t feel concerned by this allegation of attempted corruption,” Wakili said today by phone from Abidjan, the commercial capital. “I didn’t send Moussa Traore to Antoine Assale Tiemoko to attempt to bribe him.”

L’Elephant Dechaine newspaper has won praise for its investigative journalism, focusing on corruption involving members of the administration and companies. Tiemoko formally asked the press council last month to investigate the attempted bribery.

Ivory Coast ranked 96th out of 179 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index in 2013, a jump of 63 places from last year to its best position since 2003.

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