Inaugural Workshop on Successful Election Coverage by Private Non-Commercial Radio Stations for the 2015 Election

The Information Officer, Maxine Lunn giving a participant a poster containing the rules to follow for the coverage of elections (Dpt. of State)

Director General of the High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HACA)

Ladies and Gentlemen Officials in the Administration

Traditional and Religious Chiefs

Ladies and Gentlemen journalists in private non-commercial radio:

Good morning.  I am very happy to be with you today in Grand Bassam, such a historic city in Côte d’Ivoire.  Thank you to so many of you for coming to this seminar, which is an important contribution to conducting a transparent, peaceful and inclusive election.  I am here in order to demonstrate the strong engagement the United States has with the entire electoral process, especially the extremely important role of the media in this electoral period.  Among all the media, radio plays a very important role, to inform, educate and increase awareness among local populations.

Thank you to HACA, and to CITI Deux, supported by the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), part of USAID, and the Public Affairs Section of the United States Embassy, for having worked together to launch this project.  This meeting is the first and the largest in a series of three training and awareness workshops.  We hope that this meeting, as well as the two others planned for Man and Yamoussoukro, will strengthen the capacity of community radios, and help them to prepare for the upcoming electoral season.

Dear participants, today’s meeting also marks the launch of the distribution of posters and brochures with the rules to observe during your  transmissions, which will definitely contribute to civic education and social cohesion during this electoral period.

You are all aware of the law that regulates private non-commercial radio, specifically the ban on broadcasting political or candidates’ messages or endorsing any specific candidate’s advertising.  However, you have the right to broadcast messages about the electoral process, which contribute to a peaceful social climate.   Your work overall is to listeners’ awareness about their civil rights and to encourage them to vote, because voting is a right.  You should also inform the population about when, and more importantly where, to vote. By transmitting this information, your stations will contribute to the organization of a peaceful election, and ensure greater participation in the coming election.

In my speech on July 3 celebrating Independence Day in the United States, I said that democracy progresses by taking into account everyone’s sensibilities, and it is in this way that over time we have broadened our democracy.  In the beginning of our history as an independent country, 239 years ago, neither African-Americans, nor Native Americans, and not even women, had the right to vote.  But here in Côte d’Ivoire, every citizen over 18 years of age has this right and this duty, just 55 years after your independence.

So it is your duty to make sure that the voters understand the importance of the vote, where they should go to vote and how to cast a vote.  Through your radio stations, you have the power to inform the voters objectively and without taking a position.  Exercising your civil rights is not practicing politics.

Private non-commercial radio stations have a huge role to play in reinforcing social cohesion and national reconciliation.  By doing so, you help reduce the tensions that are felt in every election cycle.   And you help to show that the will of the people, the desire for a peaceful, transparent and inclusive election, is respected.

I would like to close my remarks by quoting President Theodore Roosevelt, speaking about you, the journalists, who work hard and earn little, “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

Thank you very much.