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Report: Eight newspapers close after threats in Ivory Coast

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Tensions remain high in Ivory Coast
  • The newspapers say they are facing threats by officials loyal to disputed president
  • They are also subjected to fines by a media regulatory body, groups say
  • The incumbent president is clinging to the presidency despite calls for him to concede
  • Electoral commission declared challenger Alassane Ouattara the winner of the November election

(CNN) -- Eight newspapers halted operations in Ivory Coast to protest threats and hefty fines by officials supporting the nation's disputed president, press freedom groups said.

The newspapers have been subjected to fines by the National Press Council, a media regulatory body that supports disputed President Laurent Gbagbo, according to press freedom groups.

Newspaper officials said they also faced threats and harassment from Gbagbo officials, including the police.

Gbagbo, the incumbent, is clinging to power despite calls for him to concede after an electoral commission declared challenger Alassane Ouattara the winner of the November presidential election.

The two have been embroiled in a violent power struggle over the disputed vote.

Clashes between their supporters have left scores dead and sparked concerns that the west African nation is headed toward a civil war.

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Both sides have launched attacks on the media.

Over the weekend, a broadcast antennae for the state news agency was targeted by youths loyal to Ouattara.

The youth called the news agency a "tool" used by the disputed president "to spread hate and xenophobia," said Patrice Mallet, Ouattara's representative to South Africa.

The attack killed three guards and destroyed equipment, according to a communication minister for Gbagbo's government.

State television RTI has partially resumed broadcasting in Abidjan after the attack, said Ouattara Gnonzie, the communications minister.

Press freedom groups have condemned attacks on the media.

"Our concern for press freedom in Cote d'Ivoire is mounting by the day," said Reporters Without Borders.

"We fear that the repressive measures adopted by the National Press Council and the media war being waged between Gbagbo and Ouattara will result in the already very polarized media becoming even more radicalized."

Last week, the pro-Ouattara daily Le Nouveau Reveil was shut down after authorities said it published "unbearable and shocking images" of the clashes.

The eight newspapers will resume publication Saturday, the day the government suspension of Le Nouveau Reveil runs out, said Charles Sangah, director of Le Patriote.

Le Patriote is one of the newspapers that suspended operation.

Journalist Eric Agnero contributed to this report.