The Constitution lists and defines protected civil rights in the initial articles and in a few brief references elsewhere. Like the French constitution, it promises equality before the law without respect to place of origin, race, sex, or religion. It also specifically mandates religious freedom and prohibits any manifestations of racial discrimination. The Constitution also guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, the right to representation at a trial, and the principle of innocence until guilt is proven. However, the Constitution does not guarantee bail; thus suspects are routinely incarcerated from the time of arrest until either acquitted in a trial or sentenced. The Constitution does not guarantee a free press or freedom of assembly, thereby virtually eliminating the means by which opposing political parties might develop. Otherwise, the Constitution leaves more explicit guarantees of individual liberties to the legislature.
In practice, the government generally respected the civil rights provisions of the Constitution, preferring co-optation instead of coercion to enforce its will. The United States Department of State described human rights as generally satisfactory, in contrast to conditions in most other sub-Saharan countries. At the same time, the government was not timid about violating the spirit of the Constitution when dealing with political opponents. For example, youthful political opponents were routinely conscripted into the armed forces, which was one of Houphouët-Boigny's favorite ploys to silence opponents while still being able to boast of holding no political prisoners. Also, all local news media were state owned and therefore expected to support the government and its policies. In October 1986, in the face of a budding movement for a more independent press, Minister of Information Laurent Dona Fologo threatened to fire "black sheep" journalists who did not sufficiently assume the role of public servants. Although major European and American newspapers and magazines were generally available and interested Ivoirians routinely heard French radiobroadcasts, government leaders did not hesitate to ban the circulation of a publication deemed offensive. In November 1987, for example, the Political Bureau of the Democratic Party of Côte d'Ivoire (Parti Démocratique de Côte d'Ivoire--PDCI) asked the government to ban the sale of Jeune Afrique following its allegations that Houphouët-Boigny was involved in the October 1987 coup in neighboring Burkina Faso.
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