Israël Yoroba from Ivory Coast

By Jean-Virgile Tassé-Themens

Israël Yoroba comes from Adidjan in Ivory Coast. He studied political science in his own country and then he worked until 2007 as a journalist at Le Courrier d’Abidjan, a pro-governmental daily newspaper. He started blogging when he quit his job because he said he wanted to present the ordinary people and the daily life of his compatriots. He was tired of only showing the president’s side.

Because he presented different kinds of news, Israël became really popular, not just in Ivory Coast but also in Europe. He won several prices, including the “2008 Best French Speaking Blogger” award, which was given by the Deutsche Welle, a German television present in many countries.  He also won an award for the best blog in Western Africa.

Besides his personal blog, Israël launched another one with other young Africans. He also gives training sessions on blogs. He said because of that, thousands of Ivorians are now blogging.

Since last year, he moved to Lille (France) where he is completing a masters degree at the well known École Suprérieure de Journalisme. When he is finished, he is planning to go back to Ivory Coast to continue blogging projects.

Questions and answers:

(J.V.): The blog has existed for a couple years. Why did you decide to have a blog and for how long?

(I.Y.): I first heard about it in December 2007 when I was still working at Le Courrier d’Abidjan. I decided it was time for me to show something else rather than the politics, such as the life in the public markets, the sun of the life, I mean the daily life of the people. For me it was a means of free speech.

(J.V.) Does your country have a deontological guide or  code of rules that  you can publish or not, why?

(I.Y.): No, there is no code and the reason is simple. There are not many blogs in Ivory Coast and since 2002, the government is only looking to implant a code in the regular press. However, to make sure blogs and online publications can transmit their message effectively, a new union was created for online journalists. This also helps to protect our rights.

(J.V.): What are the current challenges you are facing with your blog?

(I.Y.): Right now it is more stable, but when I started the blog I did not have a permanent access to Internet and I had to go to an internet café. I also only had money to use my cell phone to take pictures. But one of the current challenges remains the daily updates and to have a constant editorial guideline.

(J.V.) Did you ever face censorship or any kinds of menaces?

(I.Y): Not really, but once I put a video where I show a police officer receiving cash money from someone. It made a lot of noise in the country. Some people sent me messages, but since I am in France, I have sort of the feeling that I have more freedom regarding what I am publishing on my personal blog. I receive more positive comments.

(J.V.) What are the elements you think are important in your blog?

(I.Y): I put a lot of emphasis on the pictures, because in my country it helps to give credibility to the article. For example, once, France 24 took one of my pictures and put it on air. I am also currently working on the interactive side of the blog. For the current presidential election, I created an application with Google Maps so readers could put pictures of the campaign from their own region.

(J.V.): Are you talking about the politicians (i.e. President Laurent Gbagbo) in your blog?

(I.Y): Not especially, but I did on some occasions when I could do it under a different angle. Once, the President Gbagbo went to a nightclub and a source sent me exclusive pictures. I put them online. I had the most unique visitors ever.

Many news organizations are doing investigations when they talk about politicians. I am doing differently because the people want that.

(J.V): What are the current issues in your country that are important right now?

There are many, but right now it is the elections. We were supposed to have them in 2005, but the president delayed them for a long time. After the international opinion put pressure on him, the president decided that the next one would be on October 31, 2010.

The country also faced a war back in 2002 with guerillas, but many of them have been demobilized and it is really controversial for the government to help them.

Abidjan (the capital) also used to be one of the most important economic center in Western Africa and now, with the elections, it would be interesting to see how goes the rebuilding.

You can contact Israël at  isyoroba@yahoo.fr or with Skype. His username is yoroba

Here is the list of the blogs:

http://leblogdeyoro.ivoire-blog.com/
http://www.avenueafrique.com
http://www.avenue225.com

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