Training for security forces in Côte d'Ivoire on freedom of expression

Security forces in Côte d'Ivoire participated in a three-day workshop on freedom of expression and public order organized by the UNESCO Office in Abidjan, with the support of UNDP, from 12 to 14 November 2015, in Grand-Bassam. In total 25 officers of the national police and five journalists attended the training.

The aim was to train the security forces on issues related to freedom of expression, press freedom, and public order with the aim of improving the safety of journalists, and the relations between the police and media professionals.

The training, which was conducted by an expert of UNESCO, focused on the importance of improving communication between security forces and journalists, especially during events likely to generate tensions (demonstrations, riots, trials etc.).

The special position of freedom of expression among fundamental rights and the essential role of journalists in a democracy were highlighted during the training. The UNESCO expert also emphasized the importance for police to establish a professional relationship with journalists, in order to help create and preserve a feeling of safety and trust within society, prevent crimes, and arrest perpetrators while being transparent. He also reiterated the responsibility of the security forces to protect the safety of journalists, and the need to investigate cases of journalists who were killed because of their profession.

“The training helped us to understand that journalists and police officers have the same aim, which is to preserve democracy in a country. It is only the methods that differ,” said one of the participating police officers.

According to the Chief Commissioner of Divo, Edson Kouana, “the journalists and police officers have to know each other better in order to understand and tolerate each other”.

The members of Côte d'Ivoire’s security forces who attended the training were mainly trainers of the national police. At the end of the training, they expressed their commitment to transferring the knowledge received on freedom of expression and relations with journalists to their respective units.

The exchange of expertise between the police officers and the journalists who attended the last session was very fruitful, and each group came to a better understanding of each other’s work.

Participants asked the UNESCO Office in Abidjan to assist in setting up a communication platform for exchanges between security forces and journalists.

This project on training security forces on freedom of expression received the support of the Kingdom of Norway.