Announcing the measure on 30 June, Guinea-Bissau communication minister Victor Pereira blamed Portugal’s failure to respect bilateral agreements on media cooperation with its former colony.
He initially said the suspension included the Portuguese state news agency Lusa as well as the Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) and Radio Portugal (RDP). But the government later clarified that Lusa was not affected.
Guinea-Bissau’s condition for lifting the suspension is a renegotiation of the media cooperation accords, which were never respected. The government had previously given Portugal until 30 June to respond to its request for a renegotiation.
Under a 1997 agreement, Portugal was supposed to open an RTP bureau in Bissau and train Guinea-Bissau journalists and broadcast technicians. There was also supposed to be a regular exchange of programmes.
“It is not right that journalists should have to pay for political disputes, RSF said. This decision endangers freedom of expression and freedom of information. By suspending these broadcasts to put pressure on Portugal, Guinea-Bissau is cutting itself off from essential media voices that contribute to a plurality of opinions at a time of crisis.”
Silencing the government’s critics
In a communiqué issued on 30 June shortly after the original announcement, the Portuguese government said that it “exercises no editorial control over RTP, RDP and Lusa” and that these media “act with the same independence and impartiality in Bissau as in all those countries where they have a presence.”
Aside from the official reason, it seems that Guinea-Bissau’s President José Mário Vaz and his government want to silence media regarded as sharing the views of the Portuguese government, which is suspected of not being neutral in the political crisis that began more than a year ago in Guinea-Bissau.
Guinea-Bissau is ranked 79th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.