“The government used the National Regulatory Agency, the ARN, to close our branches in Bafatá and Buba ten days ago,” Africa FM manager Mama Saliou Sané said on 26 October, describing Africa FM as a legal station with a broadcasting licence, and as one “with many listeners covering the entire country.”
The president of the ARN’s board, Djibril Mané, told the media that Africa FM’s branches had been closed because “they were broadcasting without a licence and the station has not complied with its obligations to the ARN.”
But Sané responded: “The ARN just assigns broadcast frequencies to radio stations. It’s the social communication ministry’s job to issue broadcast licences. As there is still no media policy, all of the country’s radio stations are operating with a provisional licence.”
Sané added: “The government’s aim is to silence all dissenting media. It’s the reason why a political decision was taken against us instead of an administrative one. We have already paid what we owed to the ARN, which also threatened to shut down Africa FM headquarters in Bissau within a ten-day deadline that expired on 26 October.”
“We are extremely worried by this decision just a few weeks before the 24 November presidential election,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa office. “We call on Guinea-Bissau’s government to guarantee media pluralism and to reopen this radio station’s provincial branches without delay.”
This is not the first time that Africa FM, one of Guinea-Bissau’s most popular radio stations has had a run-in with the government. The authorities closed its Bafatá branch from March to June, during the run-up to legislative elections.
Guinea-Bissau is ranked 89th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.