These last few years, a marked deterioration in security for journalists, in addition to political and economic pressures, are creating a tough environment for journalism.
Though relatively diverse, the Guinea-Bissau media are strongly polarised. State-owned media, which are subject to strong influence from the government, consist of: national television, which struggles to cover the entire country; national radio; the newspaper No Pintcha and the official press agency. About 60 private and community radio stations also operate, along with privately owned newspapers and a small number of online media.
Journalists have to deal with chronic political instability, as shown again in the coup attempt of February 2022. Pressure is constant. In recent years, President Umaro Sissoco Embaló has threatened to shut a number of radio stations that lack definitive authorization to operate, and has treated journalists as “mouths for rent”. A state television journalist was suspended by the network director for not having interviewed the president when he was participating in a football tournament.
The Constitution guarantees freedom of the press and stipulates that it must be free from economic and political interests, but the reality is otherwise. However, a press law does exist and journalists have a recognised status in the country. Guinea-Bissau does not have a law guaranteeing citizens’ access to information.
The advertising market is weak, and newspaper sales are minimal. Some journalists will not cover events unless the organiser pays them. On some radio stations, many programmes are broadcast only upon payment of a fee. State-owned media, thought to be in better financial shape, are also hit by economic problems. Many journalists, who earn an average of 50 euros a month, find themselves forced to affiliate with a political party in order to survive.
The media are often forced into self-censorship, especially on topics considered sensitive, such as drug trafficking. Embezzlement and corruption, which also touches journalists, are among the issues that get little to no coverage.
Journalists and media outlets are regularly hit by physical attacks, such as the armed assaults on the offices of Capital FM and on the house of one of its journalists in early February 2022. A journalist was also attacked and briefly detained by police, who destroyed his phone and recording device, while he was covering a student demonstration in February 2021. In March 2021, António Aly Silva, an independent journalist who regularly and openly criticises the president, was abducted, beaten and abandoned on one of the main streets of the capital, Bissau, by unknown assailants.