Cote d'Ivoire Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide

Reports & Surveys
April 10, 2013

Infoasaid produced this media landscape guide about Cote d'Ivoire in October 2011.

Media overview

  • Radio is the most widespread and influential form of media in Cote d’Ivoire.
  • National radio and TV stations broadcast mainly in French, but local languages are used for selected news bulletins, public service announcements and advertisements.
  • In August 2011, the UN radio station ONUCI FM was the only radio station with a functioning nationwide network of FM transmitters.
  • The broadcasting capacity of the state broadcasting corporation Radio Television Ivoirienne (RTI) had been severely degraded by the civil war. Its studios and transmitters in Abidjan suffered heavy damage during fighting in early 2011.
  • RTI’s television service went off air completely between April and August 2011.
  • The state broadcaster was officially re-launched in August 2011 after an emergency repair programme and the reorganisation of its staff.
  • However, at that point, RTI still relied mainly on satellite broadcasts to reach most radio and TV audiences in the interior.
  • The French pay TV company Canal+ is the main satellite broadcaster in Cote d’Ivoire. It carries RTI’s radio and TV broadcasts.
  • Many people receive Canal+ cheaply through cheap pirate connections. These rely on one person paying for a subscription and creating multiple TV connections from one decoder.
  • Three religiously inspired broadcasters have networks of FM relay stations that cover several of Cote d’Ivoire’s main cities. These are:
    • Radio Nationale Catholique (Roman Catholic Christian)
    • Radio Al Bayanne  (Muslim)
    • Frequence Vie (Protestant Evangelical Christian)
  • There are also about 120 local radio stations across Cote d’Ivoire known as radios de proximite.
  • These local stations broadcast mostly in French. However they also carry local news bulletins, and occasionally other programmes, in the African languages spoken by their target audience.
  • There are about a dozen daily newspapers published in Abidjan. All of them are written in French. Few newspapers circulate outside the capital.
  • French is the official language of Cote d’Ivoire. It is the main language used in government, business and the media.
  • French is widely spoken as a lingua franca, even by people with little or no formal education.
  • There is no dominant African language that is spoken throughout the country.
  • In the north and among immigrant communities in southern Cote d’Ivoire, Dioula is widely used as a common language. Related to Mandingo, Dioula is also widely spoken in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea.
  • Baoule, the language of the ethnic group of Cote d’Ivoire’s founding president, Felix Houphouet Boigny, is widely spoken in central areas around Yamoussoukro.
  • Public service announcements and humanitarian radio programmes are likely to have a much bigger impact on rural communities if they are broadcast in appropriate local languages rather than French.
  • However, Cote d’Ivoire has over 60 languages and no ethnic group is dominant in terms of population size.
  • Local language broadcasts must therefore be narrowly targeted at defined population groups in quite small geographical areas in order to be effective (see language map).
  • UNESCO estimated the national adult literacy rate in 2009 at 55%.
  • Education was badly disrupted by the 2002-2011 civil war, especially in the rebel-controlled north. There are fears that the literacy rate and fluency in French amongst young Ivorians has been falling.
  • Despite the diversity of media in Cote d’Ivoire, the country has a poor record for freedom of expression and responsible publishing. It ranked 118 out of 178 in the Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) 2010 Press Freedom Index.
  • The media was frequently used to transmit hate speech and incitements to violence during the 2002-2011 civil war.
  • The intimidation of journalists and self censorship was rife. Several journalists were killed during and immediately after the conflict.
  • The most recent casualty was Sylvain Gagnetaud, a pro-Gbagbo journalist who worked for the Abidjan local radio station Radio Fraternite de Yopougon.
  • According to RSF, Gagnetaud was arrested and summarily executed by pro-Ouattara security forces in May 2011, a month after the military defeat of Gbagbo’s government.
  • The suburb of Yopougon was a hot-spot of violence during the battle for Abidjan. Pro-Gbagbo militia groups had traditionally been active there. Shooting persisted in Yopougon for several weeks after Gbagbo and his government surrendered.
  • RSF said Gagnetaud was arrested in a security sweep and then executed along with several youths suspected of belonging to pro-Gbagbo militia groups.
  • The state media serves as the propaganda tool of government and seldom carries any criticism of the authorities.
  • Private sector radio stations are legally banned from reporting political news.
  • However, this rule is widely flouted by several unlicensed stations which sprung up in the rebel-controlled north of the country after 2002.
  • Cote d’Ivoire’s newspapers reflect a wide range of political views, but many of them are stridently partisan. Their reporting is often unreliable.

Read a text version of the report

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