Michel Gbagbo, son of Ivory Coast’s former president Laurent Gbagbo, was sentenced Friday to six months’ jail and a fine for “complicity in disclosing false news”, his lawyer said.
In an interview with the Koaci.com news website in May 2016, Mr. Michel Gbagbo said “250 people are still in prison” after a political and military showdown in 2010-11 when his father refused to accept electoral defeat at the hands of Alassane Ouattara, the incoming president.
Mr. Michel Gbagbo also said 300 other people who have been “charged and placed under arrest since 2011 are held to be missing.”
But the Abidjan criminal court ruled the claim false, said lawyer Rodrigue Dadje.
Mr. Michel Gbagbo was fined 500,000 CFA francs (760 euros/$950) in the case.
His fellow defendant Laurent Despas, the French director of Koaci.com, was fined 10 million CFA francs (15,200 euros/$18,950) for spreading false news, Mr. Dadje said.
Mr. Dadje said he would appeal against the sentences, “which could constitute a serious precedent with regard to press freedom in Ivory Coast.”
“Journalists might from now on be convicted for having simply collected the views of people or prominent figures if the Ivorian regime considers that they do not share its point of view,” he said.
Mr. Ouattara on Thursday congratulated the media for making steady progress in the annual press freedom ratings by the NGO Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders). The west African country took 81st place in the rating for 2017.
Mr. Laurent Gbagbo is on trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, accused of crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the power struggle in Abidjan.
Governments across the globe, such as France, are also working hard to combat fake news/