Foreign radio pulled off air in Ivory Coast

AP News
Posted: Mar 02, 2011 8:19 AM
Foreign radio pulled off air in Ivory Coast

Two major foreign radio stations stopped broadcasting Wednesday in Ivory Coast in what appeared to be a renewed clampdown on foreign media amid an increasingly violent political crisis.

The country's regulatory agency for television and radio, which cut off all foreign television and radio broadcasters for more than a month last year, said Wednesday it had not cut off Radio France International and the BBC.

"We aren't aware of any measure against these stations," said Felix Nanihio, the agency's secretary general.

Over the weekend, partisans of the internationally recognized president, Alassane Ouattara, attacked the state television antenna, and successfully prevented it from broadcasting for more than a day.

State television is controlled by incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to cede power after a presidential election in November that the U.N. says he lost.

The BBC and RFI use different FM relay antennas located in different parts of the city, making a simultaneous attack on them unlikely.

But Gbagbo's government has started cracking down on press loyal to Ouattara. Nine pro-Ouattara newspapers suspended publication Tuesday after one of them was banned and three others were fined for their coverage of police brutality last week.

Fighting in Ivory Coast's commercial capital reached a new level of intensity last week, when gunmen loyal to Ouattara began fighting back and ambushing police officers after weeks of violent repression.

Last week, the U.N. said more than 300 people had died since the country's disputed November election, but that total does not include casualties from the most intense fighting which could easily reach 100.

The U.N. refugee body estimates that 20,000 people fled the fighting in a single day last week.

The northern Abidjan district of Abobo, which has been the ground zero of fighting, is now largely controlled by gunmen loyal to Ouattara.