A group of gendarmes has arrested at least 9 journalists in a swoop on protesting media professionals in Conakry, Guinea. The attack on 18 January 2024 disrupted the gathering of dozens of media professionals at the Maison de la Presse, the compound hosting the offices of media professional organisations in Guinea’s capital.
The demonstration had been called by the Syndicat des Professionnels de la Presse de Guinée (SPPG). The union had called on the journalists and the public to occupy Conakry’s key crossroads and roundabouts to demand an end to internet restriction and the jamming of several broadcast channels. Radio and television stations including Espace, Évasion, Djoma et FIM, have had their transmissions jammed since October 2023, while for news website guineematin.com, the restriction has been since mid-August.
However, the protest was effectively scuttled as the preemptive swoop by the military police threw the coordination out of gear. The security forces encircled the premises, preventing the protest organisers from going to town.
The leadership of the Maison de la Presse gave out the victims of the arrest and their media houses as follows: Foulamory BAH, (Courrier de Conakry); Saa Alou YOMBOUNO (Kaback TV); Mohamed Émile SOUMAH (Kaback TV); Mikaïlou DIALLO, (Le Vérificateur.net); Djiwo BAH (libre Afrik); Naby Laye CAMARA (Djoma Médias); Aboubacar Touré, (Africavision7.com); Favela DIAWARA (Tabouleinfos) and Djéli Mady KOUYATÉ, Managing Director of the Évasion media group.
All nine were freed later in the evening, according to Abdoulaye Cissé, Director of Communication of the SPPG who spoke to the MFWA on messaging a App. He said the nine were however summoned to appear before a prosecutor the next day (January 19). They were accused of violating the ban on public protests but eventually discharged without any conditions.
General Secretary of the SPPG, Selon Sekou Jamal Pendessa, told the press that the attack on the media within the sanctuary of the Maison de la Presse was unimaginable.
“We are not surprised by their barbarism, but we could not have imagined that they could go this far to violate the sanctity of the sacred temple of the Guinean media,” Sekou lamented.
On his Facebook page, Cellou Dalein Diallo, president of the political party UFDG (Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea), condemned what he called “the CNRD’s liberticidal practices, which are designed to put an end to press freedom in order to silence all criticism of the junta’s excesses in managing the transition”.
The pressure groups, Forces Vives de Guinée (FVG) and the officially banned Front national pour la defense de la constitution, (FNDC), strongly condemned the repression.
The latest crackdown comes some three months after thirteen journalists demonstrating in solidarity with Guineematin.com on October 16, 2023, were assaulted and arrested. Additionally, three journalists sustained severe injuries, and several pieces of journalists’ equipment were destroyed.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the latest attack on journalists in Guinea and demands the dropping of all charges and restrictions against them. Guinea’s junta must understand that the country has commitments under its constitution and several international instruments to uphold press freedom and freedom of assembly. Article 10 of Guinea’s 2010 constitution gives every citizen the right to express themselves within the civic space, article 8 also enshrines freedom of expression.
Additionally, Guinea has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (January 1978) and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (June 1993), under which it commits itself to upholding a range of civil rights including the right to peaceful assembly.
Given that the country is in transition and needs to harness diverse opinions on the way forward, it is imperative that the government adopts a posture that expands, rather than restricts the civic space.