Cocoa story arrests leave bitter taste
Three journalists have been freed following their arrest in mid-July in the Ivory Coast.
On 13th July, an Ivorian newspaper published a story about the findings of an inquiry into corruption in the management of country's cocoa industry, which currently accounts for 40 per cent of global supply. The cocoa industry has for a long time been subject of concerns about child labour, corruption and conflict.
Shortly after the article was printed, three journalists from Le Nouveau Courrier, including editorial director and noted blogger Théophile Kouamouo and senior editors Stéphane Guédé and Saint Claver Oula, were apprehended by the police. The three faced charges of theft of public documents for reporting on the government inquiry into corruption in the cocoa board. The journalists refused to identify their sources, in accordance with standard journalistic practice.
More than a thousand people responded to reports on internet activist website change.org and wrote to Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo and the US Embassy in Abidjan to register their concern about the arrests. Having allegedly been threatened with up to five years in prison and a huge fine, Kouamouo, Guédé and Oula were released on 26th July.
Investigating the Ivorian cocoa industry and reporting it is not without danger: French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer disappeared in 2004 in the capital Abidjan after receiving threats for his coverage of corruption in the cocoa industry; his whereabouts remain unknown.
Ethical Consumer Chocolate Buyers' Guide (Nov/Dec 2009)