Monday, January 02, 2012

Plane crash kills Ivorian free press pioneer

Ivorian media group chief Nady Rayess, considered a pioneer of the country's independent press, died Monday in a small plane crash near Abidjan, the civil aviation authority said.

A single-engine aircraft flown by the Olympe group chief executive officer, who had dual Ivorian-Lebanese nationality, crashed in the morning in a village near Grand-Bassam, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) east of the economic capital, an aviation authority official told AFP.

Rayess had been returning from Assinie, a nearby seaside town.

"Emergency services at the scene saw the body of Mr Rayess, who was the sole occupant" of the plane, the source said.

Felix D Bony, editor of L'Inter, a newspaper in the Olympe stable, confirmed that Rayess, born in Divo in southern Ivory Coast in 1962, had died in the crash.

Communications Minister Souleimane Coty Diakite on behalf of the government hailed Rayess as "a valiant entrepreneur and media man".

Rayess' Olympe group became one of the country's biggest, printing opposition-aligned titles under the 1960-1993 presidency of Felix Houphouet-Boigny, notably La Voie which backed Laurent Gbagbo -- a long-time opponent of the president until he himself became head of state from 2000 to 2011.

The media in Ivory Coast is known for taking political sides, often with an aggressive tone, including during the post-electoral crisis from December 2010

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