First worrying signs for press freedom in Guinea since last month’s coup
What with an army raid on a media outlet and privately-owned TV channels prevented from covering “national coordination” meetings, some media have had problems reporting the news since last month’s coup d’état in Guinea. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the transitional authorities not to obstruct journalists’ work.
“Even if journalists were not physically injured, they were all affected psychologically,” a journalist said after members of the Guinean military’s special forces raided Djoma Média, an outlet owned by an ally of former President Alpha Condé, at around 10 p.m. on 9 October on the pretext of looking for missing state-owned vehicles.
After the building’s security guards refused to let them in, shots were fired for around ten minutes, injuring at least two people. The special forces finally got into the building but failed to find any of the missing vehicles.
Col. Balla Samouré, one of the most influential members of the National Committee of Reconciliation and Development (CNRD), the military junta ruling Guinea since President Condé’s ouster on 5 September, commented publicly two days later, saying the problem would be “settled at the level of the military hierarchy” and expressing solidarity with the Djoma Média group.
Coverage of official activities by privately-owned media has experienced growing problems since the coup, which was carried out by the Special Forces Group under Col. Mamadi Doumbouya’s leadership.
On 8 October, the day before the Djoma Média raid, several TV channels were prevented from covering Prime Minister Mohamed Béavogui’s installation. Three journalists separately told RSF that privately-owned TV channels are routinely prevented from covering the “national coordination” meetings between military and civilian representatives, leaving state-owned radio and TV broadcaster RTG with a monopoly on coverage of these meetings.
“The safety of journalists and access to information are the two press freedom pillars on which we are waiting to see the approach taken by the transitional authorities,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “We hope this raid will be the subject of a thorough investigation and appropriate sanctions, in order to send a clear message to the media sector. Journalists must be able to work in a calm and open environment in order to fully play their rule during this transition period.”
Press freedom was regularly violated in Guinea under President Condé. Although Guinea has abolished prison sentences for press offences, some journalists were arrested and placed in detention this year. The latest victims were Ibrahima Sadio Bah and Amadou Diouldé Diallo, who were both detained for three months between February and May, the first for defamation and the second for insulting the president.
Guinea has fallen 23 places in RSF's World Press Freedom Index since 2013 and is now ranked 109th out of 180 countries.