Using force, police arrest 10 journalists covering peaceful demonstration in defence of press freedom in Guinea
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the violent arrests of 10 journalists covering a peaceful protest on 16 October in the Guinean capital, Conakry, in defence of press freedom and against the two-month-old blocking of the Guinée Matin news website. The charges brought against these journalists must be dropped, RSF says.
“They wanted to disperse us, they used teargas, they roughed up journalists and they smashed equipment before taking us away,” said Sékou Jamal Pendessa, the general secretary of the Guinea Press Professionals Union (SPPG), who organised the peaceful demonstration in the Conakry district of Kaloum. He was one of the three journalists participating in the protest who were also arrested.
The ten other detained journalists were covering the demonstration for media outlets such as Guinée Matin and Hadafo Médias. After being arrested while covering the protest in the morning, they were finally released in the late afternoon.
Several of the journalists were roughed up and beaten when the police broke up the protest, and equipment, including cameras and sound recorders, was damaged. Mariama Bhoye Barry, a reporter for Cavi TV, a privately-owned TV news channel, sustained an injury to her elbow when the police fired teargas grenades.
The 13 journalists were taken to Kaloum police station and subsequently to a court in Kaloum where they were charged with “criminal participation in an illegal gathering” and were ordered to appear in court next week. They were freed after being held illegally for more than seven hours.
At a meeting with RSF in October 2021, Guinea’s military junta undertook to protect press freedom during the transition and yet it is still struggling to keep its promise. The violence against these journalists and their arrests are unacceptable. We demand the withdrawal of the charges against them and we reiterate our call for everything to be done to unblock access to the Guinée Matin news site, which is currently accessible thanks to RSF’s creation of a mirror site.
Four press associations – AGUIPEL, URTELGUI, REMIGUI and UPLG – issued a joint statement deploring a “serious setback for freedom of expression and democracy.” The SPPG, the National Confederation of Guinean Workers (CNTG) and RSF’s local partner, the Media Alliance for Human Rights (AMDH), also issued a joint statement condemning the arrests.
Access to the Guinée Matin website has been blocked since mid-August without any explanation and without any technical problem being detected, according to its general manager. The SPPG blames the authorities, in particular, Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, the minister of posts, telecommunications and digital economy who is also the military junta’s spokesman. When contacted by RSF, Diallo denied being responsible.
As well as creating a mirror site to restore access to Guinée Matin, RSF also created one for Inquisiteur.net, a news and investigative website that was blocked for a month and a half, until the evening of 14 October.
Inquisiteur.net general manager, Mamoudou Babila Keita, told RSF that the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ARPT) was not responsible for the blocking. Instead, he blamed Moussa Moïse Sylla, the military junta's communication and information director, who is a former Inquisiteur.net general manager and shareholder and one of its co-founders. After a month of initiatives aimed at restoring access, the site was finally unblocked after the Network of Internet Media in Guinea (REMIGUI) mediated between Keita and Sylla.