Guinea : “You don’t burn the savannah because there are weeds”

The secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Christophe Deloire, urged Guinea’s president, Alpha Condé, not to clash with his country’s media when President Condé received Deloire at the presidential palace in Conakry last weekend after threatening comments by Condé.

Voicing the concerns of RSF and the country’s media associations, Deloire urged President Condé to help the media to develop instead of restricting their freedom. Guinea is currently ranked 101st out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.

“Mr. President, we appeal to you today in a constructive spirit not to make comments amounting to intimidation, which don’t constitute a policy,” Deloire told Condé during the 25 November meeting, in which Jean Kouchner, the president of the Francophone Press Union (UPF), also participated.

Deloire added: “As an African proverb might say, you don’t burn the savannah because there are weeds. Quality journalism is a legitimate aspiration, but the media should not be undermined in an attempt to achieve it.”

The meeting took place after weeks of tension between journalists and President Condé, who made very offensive comments about the media in a speech delivered at the closing session of a UPF international congress in Conakry just hours before the meeting.

Openly denigrating Guinea’s journalists, Condé said “no one scares me” and that media outlets that interviewed Guinean union leader Aboubacar Soumah would be immediately closed. Press freedom defenders were appalled by the president’s virulent attacks on the media.

Referring to Guinea’s efforts on media legislation, UPF international president Madiambal Diagne said: “The media situation in Guinea, as no doubt in many other countries in the sub-region, seems to share the fate of Sisyphus. Whenever you think the worst is over, a new sequence of events deals an appalling setback. You have the legitimacy and moral authority to make deeper changes.”

RSF expressed its appreciation to Condé for promulgating laws on press freedom and the High Authority for Communication (HAC) after he took office in 2010. But it pointed out that the HAC often takes arbitrary decisions and accuses media outlets of operating illegally after it has ignored their requests for a licence.

During the meeting, President Condé said he was “ready to accompany the media” if they “regroup and put their affairs in order.”

As good journalism needs an adequate economic underpinning, RSF will try to ensure that measures are taken to strengthen the media while fully respecting their freedom. Together with the UPF, RSF will also make proposals aimed at reinforcing respect for journalism’s underlying principles, especially the ethical principles.

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Updated on 27.11.2017