Côte d’Ivoire: Training of Security Forces on Freedom of Expression, Freedom of the Press, and Safety of Journalists

The UNESCO Office in Abidjan organized a training workshop for security forces from the Police and National Gendarmerie on the theme “Freedom of Expression, Press Freedom and Safety of Journalists” from 28 September to 1 October 2020 in Grand-Bassam.
There were thirty participants, from the police and the gendarmerie in equal numbers, who were in fact trainers themselves. At the end of the training, they would be able to conduct courses on these subjects in the training schools, to promote freedom of expression and the safety of journalists, particularly during the election period.

Indeed, the two entities (security forces and organizations of media professionals) in their exchanges recognized that a healthy collaboration between them was, on the one hand, an asset for a better access to information and, on the other hand, a pledge for the promotion of democratic principles.

The training modules included, among others, the following topics:

Journalism, democracy and freedom of expression;
Protection of journalists – Defense and Security forces: ensuring that journalists have access to information;
Security operating procedures with the media; and,
Tools for communication with the media.
These themes led to fairly direct and frank exchanges during the workshop. This made it possible to draw up concrete proposals that each party should commit to and ensure respect for, in order to improve the new ‘pact’ sealed for a better professional approach.

Several proposals were made during this workshop: designation of an interlocutor for journalists within the security forces during the coverage of demonstrations, or the training of journalists on police and military procedures in order to know certain mechanisms and principles of security.

This training workshop conducted by an international expert – a former police captain himself with experience in the media – ended with the adoption of a series of recommendations that will be communicated to the various superiors of the security forces, and the awarding of certificates of participation.

In addition, the training benefited from media coverage, and was featured on national television. One of the news report can be viewed here (from 12:00 minutes).

It should be noted that the safety of journalists is one of the main priorities of the United Nations, which calls on its Member States to take the necessary steps to implement the UN Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. With the support of UNESCO, a code of conduct for security forces and journalists will be developed and distributed within the security forces and Organizations of Media Professionals for more professional reporting and better collaboration.

This project was implemented as part of UNESCO’s training programmes for security forces on freedom of expression which, since 2013, have trained more than 3,400 security forces in over 17 countries from Africa, the Arab word, Europe and Latin America.