REGULATION & POLICY

Election in Côte d'Ivoire: TV and Radio “favouritism”?

Reporters Without Borders reports that La Première (the state-owned broadcaster RTI's main TV channel) and state-owned Radio Côte d'Ivoire (RCI) continued to give much more air-time to President Laurent Gbagbo than the other candidates during the second week of the campaign for the first round of Côte d'Ivoire's presidential election.

This violated one of the rules set by the National Broadcasting Council (CNCA), under which the candidates should have received equal treatment from the public radio and TV stations.

Respect for this rule is all the more important for maintaining a level playing field in the election because the CNCA has banned privately-owned non-commercial broadcast media, including TV stations based in the former rebel north, from broadcasting their own programmes about the election campaign.

These media are limited to rebroadcasting the programmes broadcast by La Première and RCI: the "Campaign News Programmes" that are supposed to include a report of equal length about each candidate every two days, the campaign spots produced by the candidates themselves and the "Facing the voters" programme, which each day has been giving a different candidate 90 minutes to present their election platform.

Overall, the rules of equal treatment are being respected in these special election programmes, but the ordinary news programmes, which are forbidden by the CNCA to cover the election campaign, are giving a great deal of coverage to Gbagbo's activities as president. This violates the spirit of equal treatment and is giving him a big media advantage.

Reporters Without Borders again deplores the fact that the CNCA did not conduct a lottery to determine the order in which the candidates appeared on "Facing the voters" and decided that President Gbagbo would appear last (the most advantageous position). The organization hopes that, during the second-round campaign, a debate will be held on La Première and RCI between the two winners of the first round.

Reporters Without Borders hails the conduct of the National Press Council (CNP), which has constantly monitored the print media's campaign coverage in an impartial manner and has issued warnings to newspapers that violated professional ethics by their use of outrageous language and verbal excesses.

The press freedom organization finally congratulates the campaign coverage provided by Fraternité Matin, which has fulfilled his duties as a public-service daily by giving its readers balanced and impartial coverage of the 14 candidates throughout the past two weeks and by contributing in a very positive way to a pluralist political debate.

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