House of Press besieged, journalists arrested, radio stations pirated and website closed in latest escalation against Guinea’s media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for an immediate end to the climate of terror that Guinea’s authorities have imposed on the media in the past 48 hours, arresting nine journalists, besieging the House of the Press, pirating two radio stations, and suspending a news site and its editor. This sudden escalation follows two months of already unprecedented media censorship.

On 18 January, amid preparations in the capital, Conakry, for a protest against the jamming of at least four radio stations and restrictions on Internet access in recent weeks, gendarmes tried unsuccessfully to storm the House of the Press, where around 30 journalists had gathered.

“They tried to storm the premises twice in succession, without succeeding,” said Sékou Jamal Pendessa, the secretary-general of the Union of Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG). “The area was cordoned off by police. Access was blocked by pickup trucks. No one could enter or leave. A drone even flew over the House of the Press.” The journalists were trapped inside for more than eight hours before being able to leave at around 7 pm.

Nine journalists who were outside the building were detained by gendarmes in the afternoon. Six were taken to the gendarmerie barracks in Dixinn, while the other three were taken to the investigation division’s headquarters in the Conakry suburb of Kipé. After being questioned about the reasons for their presence at the House of Press, they were released late in the evening. After a hearing on 19 January, the Dixinn public prosecutor dropped all further proceedings.

We deplore the arrests of these journalists, who were in no way disturbing public order, and the fact that around 30 other journalists were confined for an entire day. The climate of terror imposed on the media and journalists in Guinea is extremely worrying, as is the pace with which one press freedom violation follows another. We call on the authorities to put an end to this at once, and to allow journalists and media to operate with complete freedom.

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

The day before the aborted protest, territorial administration minister Mory Condé warned that he would “neutralise” those responsible for any act of violence during the protest. At the same time, government spokesperson Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, who is also minister of posts, telecommunications and digital economy, said he was surprised by the planned media protest, claiming that “discussions are underway with the press to try to listen to the problems they pose, and to provide possible answers.” 

Blocked, suspended or replaced by military music

 The latest events follow the pirating of two radio stations, Espace FM and FIM FM, whose signals had been jammed – like those of Djoma FM and Évasion – since the end of November. FIM FM director Talibé Barry told RSF: “The same content is being broadcast on both radio stations simultaneously, like synchronised jamming. However, our transmitter is turned off and our studios have been shut down for two months.”

Espace FM news editor Moussa Yéro Bah said that, instead of programmes, the same music “paying homage to the army” with a nationalist theme was being broadcast in a loop.

Access to Mosaïque Guinée – a news site that boasts an “independent and uncompromising” editorial policy – has meanwhile been blocked since 2 January without explanation. Publisher Mohamed Bangoura told RSF that he thought it was a technical problem until he discovered that they had been deliberately disconnected. He said he did not know why. The site already suffered blockages in May 2023, a month in which Guinea experienced a spate of press freedom violations.

On 17 January, Guinea’s media regulator, the High Authority for Communication (HAC), suspended the news site for nine months and its publisher, Abdoul Latif Diallo, for six months for an article implicating the central bank governor and the economy and finance minister in alleged embezzlement. Diallo and his website already received a disproportionate one-month suspension last September.

Vice tightening since November

The environment is becoming alarmingly restrictive for journalists. Thomas Dietrich, a French freelance reporter who had gone to Guinea on a valid visa to do a story on the petroleum company SONAP and property acquired by its director-general, was summarily arrested and expelled on 14 January for “illegal entry into Guinean territory.” He has yet to receive a copy of his expulsion order and the authorities have not returned his laptop, which they confiscated.

Following the jamming of their radio signals since November, the TV channels of Djoma, Évasion and Espace have been removed from the Canal+ and StarTimes satellite packages since December at the behest of the HAC, which cited “national security” grounds. The foreign ministry also cited a “security problem” as the reason why access to social media has been blocked for the past two months.

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