The latest news coming out of the Ivory Coast suggests its not just victims trafficked into chocolate production whose freedom is at stake. Even the reporters trying to highlight things in the cocoa industry those in power would rather keep hidden, are having their freedom taken away. Since journalists are particularly important in providing public accountability for official malpractice, there is now a fear for others working to expose the dark and bitter truth of the industry.
The International Labor Rights Forum recently reported that 3 journalists from the Ivory Coast were arrested after publishing a story about corruption in the cocoa sector, including a former Ivory Coast owned New York Chocolate & Confections plant in New York.
The cocoa industry in the Ivory Coast accounts for 40% of the global cocoa supply. Chances are, when eating a chocolate bar that isn’t fair-trade or Rainforest alliance, you are unknowingly fuelling the conflict in the Ivory Coast. Journalists also have an important role in voicing what is happening in the cocoa industry but in doing so they face being arrested. Despite being charged with “theft of public documents,” the arrested group has refused to identify their sources for their report, claiming such privacy as a fundamental right of their profession, which it is. Why then do they face a one year jail sentence and almost $20,000 fine?
We have always campaigned to get chocolate companies to have an invested and sustainable interest in cocoa farms. By this we mean investment into independent checks like those provided through the Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance certifications. Ironically evidence now suggests companies have ‘invested’ and ‘sustainable’ interest but not exactly in the ways we’re after. Global Witness have reported members of the cocoa board are believed to be close to top political officials and corporations and have apparently tapped into profits from cocoa for their own personal and political missions. In this way, their ‘invested’ interest is more likely to be in trafficking, as they can profit directly from the exploited labour of human beings- ‘sustainable’ unlike other forms of exploit (e.g. a drug or a weapon).
You can read more on the following links and can also send a message to the government of the Ivory Coast that we will not accept violations of freedom of the press.
Also, check out our chocolate campaign www.stopthetraffik.org/Chocolate