Home IVORY COAST IVORY COAST: Ivorian president loses libel suit against journalist in France

IVORY COAST: Ivorian president loses libel suit against journalist in France

President Alassane Dramane Ouattara @Page Facebook

On Thursday, the Paris court dismissed a journalist and the editor of «La lettre du continent», who was sued for defamation by Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara for a 2017 article on sovereign wealth funds in that country. By Le Figaro

The president had filed a complaint in France after the publication of a brief entitled «Côte d’Ivoire – Ouattara blows up sovereign wealth funds», published on 30 August 2017 in the bimonthly, now a daily newspaper under the name of Africa Intelligence. In this very short article, the newspaper wrote that Mr. Ouattara «benefitted [sic]» from a sovereign fund of 342.6 billion CFA francs or 521 million euros, «an increase of 20 billion compared to 2015», a «budget envelope» in which he could «all the better to draw at will» as it was «directly managed by his brother, the Minister of Presidential Affairs Birahima Téné Ouattara».

In its ruling on Thursday, the court found that the statements were quite defamatory but that the defendants should be released for the benefit of good faith. The court pointed out that the article was part of a “general interest debate” and that the journalist had a “sufficient factual basis” to publish the remarks. He also noted the “moderate tone” used “with the exception of a few critical terms”, which “remain relevant to the editorial line” of the publication.

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Mr. Ouattara believed that these remarks “imputed to him by implication that he was embezzling public funds, with the complicity of his brother”. He challenged the figures as “an inaccurate amalgam of several budget headings”. In this case, the defence pointed to the independence of the editorial staff vis-à-vis the governments and parties, recalling that the subject of the attacked article had already been dealt with by the newspaper in 2012 and 2014, while defending the journalist’s good faith and the seriousness of the investigation. “We did our job as a journalist, the court recognized that,” Maurice Botbol told AFP on Thursday.

Alassane Ouattara, 78, was re-elected on 31 October for a controversial third term, deemed unconstitutional by the opposition, which boycotted the election and did not recognize his re-election. Electoral violence killed 85 people and wounded half a thousand between August and November. Marking a new description of the political situation, the entire Ivorian opposition announced on Thursday its participation in the general elections of 6 March with the aim of winning «the majority in Parliament».

Source : Le Figaro


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