UN radio station in Côte d’Ivoire remains on air despite ban

A radio station in Côte d’Ivoire backed by the United Nations, ONUCI-FM, is continuing to broadcast despite attempts by the Ivorian government to shut it down. The station, the most widely listened to in the nation, has reportedly been jammed by those supporting Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to concede defeat following national elections in November. Gerry Adams spoke to Sylvain Semilinko, the ONUCI-FM chief, who told her the station is still on the air:

Sylvain: The decision has been taken and read on national tv to withdraw the frequencies allocated to UNOCI-FM to operate its radio in Côte d’Ivoire. The decision has been taken by the body called CNCA, which is the major regulatory body in Côte d’Ivoire. However, the radio is still operating. Not only have we not been notified officially of that decision, but secondly, we are operating within the UN mandate. The UN mandate for UNOCI, which has been renewed last December by the Security Council. So ONUCI is still carrying its mandate in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as UNOCI-FM throughout the country.

Adams: So you’re saying that even though Laurent Gbagbo would like to close the station down, he is unable to enforce it?

Sylvain: It might be quite difficult. First of all, the United Nations only recognizes Alassane Ouatarra as the elected President of Côte d’Ivoire and secondly, the transmitters for the radio are located in the UN compound throughout the country, which are secured by UN forces. So it might be very challenging for Mr. Gbagbo to implement this decision.

Adams: Why do you think he would say something like this or try to announce something like this?

Sylvain: Well, the whole media landscape in Côte d’Ivoire is being muzzled by Mr. Gbagbo’s camp. They don’t want freedom of speech, freedom of the press. They don’t want pluralism of the opinions. So there is a kind of clamp down on the media. The other day, they changed the media regulatory body. And they wanted to close some papers. They have arrested journalists, etc, etc. That is the whole media landscape in Ivory Coast, the post-electoral era.

Adams: Give us an idea of the importance of ONUCI-FM to the people.

Sylvain: Well, ONUCI-FM s the only independent radio transmitting through the country. We have 25 FM stations in the country and in various cities. And it’s the only radio which broadcasts nationwide, from south to north, from west to east and the most listened to and the most trusted too, according to the poll we conducted.

Narrator: UNOCI-FM Chief Sylvain Semilinko in Côte d’Ivoire.

duration:  2’28″

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