January 30, 2019

Guinea-Bissau government asked not to interfere in TV news coverage

The headquaters of Televisão da Guiné-Bissau in the capital city Bissau. Photo: TGB
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on Guinea-Bissau’s authorities to stop interfering in the editorial policies of the country’s public TV broadcaster, Televisão da Guiné-Bissau (TGB), whose staff began a partial strike two days ago to demand an end to political meddling in their news coverage.

Since 28 January, TGB’s journalists have been refusing to cover the activities of any political party in order to press their demand for an end to “censorship” and “bias” in the broadcaster’s reporting.  

The head of the TGB employees’ union, Domingo José Gomes, told RSF that TGB has of late been covering just three political parties: the Democratic Alliance and the Jomav Movement (which back President José Mário Vaz.) and the Social Renewal Party (of which the social communication minister is a member).  

The opposition parties and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), which has a majority in the national assembly, are being censored, Gomes said. For example, an interview with the national assembly speaker was censored on 20 January, the anniversary of PAIGC founder Amilcar Cabral’s death.  

“This interference is unacceptable and is undermining the pluralism of opinions in the media just weeks before parliamentary elections,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa office. “Guinea-Bissau’s authorities must end the censorship and must refrain from any meddling in news coverage, which is the sole responsibility of journalists.”  

The TGB employees’ union already signed a petition in September 2017 opposing interference in TGB's editorial policies. In a phone call with RSF, TGB news director Eusobio Nunes blamed the problem on TGB’s dependence on the government and its funding. “There cannot be no total independence,” he said. “The government pays the salaries, determines policies and appoints those who are in charge.”  

Guinea-Bissau has been embroiled in a political crisis since 2015, when President Vaz, a PAIGC member, fired his prime minister, Domingos Simões Pareira, who is PAIGC’s leader. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been mediating in the crisis and has been pushing for parliamentary elections, which – after repeated postponements – are finally due to be held on 10 March.  

Guinea-Bissau is ranked 83rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 RSF World Press Freedom Index.