Cote D' Ivoire to open airwaves to private TV, radio

Cote D’ Ivoire new communications minister said on Sunday he planned to open up the country’s airwaves to private television and radio networks in 2004.

“I am very favourable to liberalisation, to the arrival of private television and radio networks in Cote D’ Ivoire,” Guillaume Soro, a former rebel leader said, adding that the function and role of the new players would be clearly outlined.

Soro, who doubles as the secretary general of the Cote D’ Ivoire Patriotic Movement (MPCI), the main rebel group, said a study was already under way, adding: “We hope to liberalise the airwaves in 2004.”

Cote D’ Ivoire currently has only state-run television, with two channels, but boasts several private radio stations.

Soro also issued a warning to the state-run media which he said had become “propaganda machines favouring war,” adding that they would not be allowed to play off “one region or one religion against another.”

He said he was trying to put in place a media that was “free, independent and responsible.”

Cote D’ Ivoire notoriously partisan press has carried biased reports since the start of a rebel war launched by the MPCI on September 19, which rent the west African country in half.

The three rebels movements joined a unity government after gruelling peace talks in Togo, France and Ghana and recently agreed to a nationwide truce with government troops.

Soro said work was under way to revamp the government-run Radio Television Ivoirienne. The state also controls the Fraternite-Matin daily and the Ivorian Press Agency. - Sapa-AFP

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