Ivory Coast: Proposed Law on Electronic Communications Raises Concerns Among Journalists

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Ivorian journalists, particularly those involved in investigative reporting, are expressing deep concern over a proposed law concerning electronic communications. The legislation would prohibit the publication of electronic messages without the consent of the author or recipient, a measure seen by its opponents as a threat to press freedom.

This bill, examined on Thursday, March 14th, by the National Assembly, aims to establish a new legal framework for electronic communications. It was introduced by the Commission on Research, Science, Technology, and the Environment, consisting of around twenty members from both the ruling party and the opposition, and was unanimously adopted.

The proposed law consists of 252 articles, but it is a brief paragraph, the third of Article 214, that has garnered the most attention in the chamber. It states that “anyone who intercepts, discloses, publishes, or uses the content of electronic messages, or reveals their existence, is liable to heavy penalties, except with the express consent of the author or recipient of the communication, or upon requisition by the judicial authority in the context of a judicial investigation. The penalty incurred is five years of imprisonment and a fine of 10 million CFA francs.”

According to Ibrahim Kalil Konaté, the Minister of Digital Transition and Digitalization, the objective of the text is to enhance privacy protection. However, independent deputy and former journalist Tiémoko Assalé fears “an obstacle to the practice of investigative journalism and a serious infringement on press freedom.”

The National Organization of Investigative Journalists of Ivory Coast (ONJI-CI) has also stated in this regard, predicting that the law “will deter journalists from pursuing certain investigations or disclosing information vital to the public. Furthermore, it could complicate source protection, undermine journalistic independence, and increase legal risks in gathering evidence.” The proposed law is scheduled for a vote in a plenary session on April 18th.

Soukaina Sghir

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