Activist Given One-Year Prison Sentence for Opinion Piece
International PEN protests the one-year prison sentence imposed on activist Antoine Assalé Tiémoko on charges of libel and contempt of court on January 4, 2008. PEN considers Tiémoko’s imprisonment to be in direct violation of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Antoine Assalé Tiémoko, activist and occasional contributor to the daily Le Nouveau Réveil, was arrested on December 28, 2007. On December 14, the newspaper had published an opinion piece by Tiémoko on judicial corruption, "Justice, Criminals, and Corruption." Tiémoko used an imaginary country called Mastodon Coast, as well as coded words and innuendo, to question the Ivorian minister of justice (whose photo accompanied the piece), the state prosecutor, and various judges, and to accuse them of corruption.
Tiémoko was condemned to one year in prison for "libelling the prosecutor’s office" and contempt of court on January 4, 2008, and is serving his prison sentence in Abdijan prison. An activist and the president of the association MVPC (Ma vie est dans ma prise de conscience), which fights against unemployment and social injustice, Tiémoko is not a journalist but has apparently been given a prison sentence simply for expressing his opinion in print.
PEN considers this sentence to be a serious threat to freedom of expression. PEN notes that writers and journalists who report on corruption in Africa are particularly liable to face imprisonment on criminal defamation charges, including libel.
Write A Letter
- expressing concern that activist Antoine Assalé Tiémoko has been sentenced to 12 months in prison for writing and publishing an opinion piece, in violation of his right to freedom of expression and opinion, guaranteed by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Ivory Coast is party;
- urging the Ivorian authorities to reconsider their decision to impose a prison sentence on Tiémoko;
- calling for Tiémoko’s immediate and unconditional release.
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Monsieur le Président de la République
Palais de la Présidence au Plateau
P.O. Box: 01 BP 1354 Abidjan 01
Phone: + 225 20 22 02 22
Fax : + 225 20 21 14 25
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Permanent Mission of Côte d'Ivoire to the United Nations
H.E. Mr. Ilahiri Alcide Djedje, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
46 East 74th Street, New York, NY 10021
Phone: (212) 717-5555
Fax: (212) 717-4492
Also send appeals to Ivorian diplomatic representatives in your country.