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Reporters Jailed for Insulting Ivorian Leaders; Hundreds Protest

July 23, 1991

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) _ A journalist and a newspaper manager were sentenced to three months in jail on Tuesday for insulting President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, and hundreds of people took to the streets in protest.

Jacques Kacou, director of the weekly newspaper Liberte, and reporter George Koffi were arrested in early June for an article headlined ″Look Out 3/8 Houphouet Has Lost His Mind.″

A court found the two guilty of breaking a law against insulting the Ivorian head of state. The publication is close to the opposition Popular Front.

About 1,000 demonstrators gathered in front of the Justice Ministry in downtown Abidjan after the sentence was announced.

Police fired tear gas and forced the crowd to flee. Angry young people regrouped and stoned and damaged a dozen cars and a bus in the city center. At least two people were reported injured.

Tuesday’s court case was the first test of newly won press freedoms in Ivory Coast. During 30 years of one-party rule, only government-controlled newspapers, radio, and television were permitted.

Dozens of publications have appeared on the streets since last year, after strikes and riots forced Houphouet-Boigny to legalize political opposition and hold the West African nation’s first multiparty elections. Houphouet and his party won, but the opposition says the balloting was rigged.

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