The regulator of Guinea’s media space, the High Authority for Communication (HAC), has banned N’Faly Guilavogui, Deputy Director (DGA) of the media Groupe Evasion Guinea, from working as a journalist for 10 days. Mr. Guilavogui was suspended for allowing the broadcast of a statement from a youth association in Konia, a community located 62 kilometers North of Conakry.
The Deputy Director of the private radio and television group based in Guinea’s capital is suspended from all radio and television broadcasts from September 13 to 23, 2022, according to the HAC’s sanction. The regulator communicated the decision in an official statement on September 12, 2022.
Specifically, the HAC accused the Deputy Director of violating “the ethics and professional conduct as well as the code of good conduct of Guinean journalists” by broadcasting on his channel, excerpt of a statement released by the National Association of the Youth of Konia. The group had demanded in the statement that light be shed on the fate of their brothers arrested by the Guinean military authorities.
Without specifying which part of the statement was incriminating, the HAC said it considered it to be partisan and of a nature to “endanger the social stability of our country”.
HAC’s mean streak
In recent times, the HAC is seen to have become very repressive. In the past two months alone, it has imposed a multitude of sanctions on several journalists.
On August 8, the Publishing Manager of the online outlet, Mosaique.com, Mohamed Bangoura, was subjected to interrogation by the HAC. The latter took issues with the journalist for publishing an article on the disappearance of a truck containing Tramadol, a drug often abused, from the premises of a military garrison.
Feeling offended by this publication, the military intelligence department of the Armed Forces General Staff invited Mohamed Bangoura to the garrison for questioning over the article. To its credit, the HAC intervened and took over the case to prevent the journalist from going to the military camp.
At the end of the interrogation, the journalist failed to provide proof of his allegations. He was asked by the HAC to publish an article denying his allegation, and at the same time to appease the military which was determined to have him arrested for defamation.
On August 19, Ibrahima Lincoln Soumah, the host of the popular program “Mirador” on the private radio station FIM FM, was suspended by the HAC for a period of seven days, from August 22 to 29, 2022.
The regulatory body accused him of “making statements through which he failed to show social responsibility.
In an issue of “Mirador”, a program with a considerable audience, Mr. Soumah had stated that most of the protesters killed during a peaceful demonstration had names such as “Diallo, Bah, Sow…”, meaning these victims were of Fula tribal extraction.
The HAC incriminated these remarks in order to sanction the journalist. However, Mr. Soumah had the support of listeners who said he was “a journalist of the people of Guinea.”
Shortly after the sanction of Ibrahima Lincoln Soumah, on August 22, another journalist, Habib Marouane Camara, was also invited by the High Authority for Communication. After 3 hours of questioning, the administrator of the news website “Le Révélateur 224” was finally informed that the invitation was as a result of an article he published on his online platform.
He has not been suspended. However, the HAC asked him to be more professional in the performance of his job. It said in its decision that, “the High Authority for Communication has however noted the regrets expressed by the author who has voluntarily accepted to withdraw the article from his website.”
This trend of summons to journalists by the HAC for interrogations, sometimes accompanied by sanctions, is perceived as an attempt to muzzle and intimidate journalists, which is an authoritarian derivative of the military dictatorship of the country.
In this regard, the HAC is perceived as the armed wing of the junta which has been in power since September 5, 2021. The ruling military has positioned itself as a repressive force against all dissenting voices in Guinea. Many civil society actors who oppose the junta’s excesses are currently imprisoned. Journalists who try to denounce the abuses by the military government are summoned by the HAC and subjected to harsh interrogation and punishment. This is the climate in which Guinean journalists operate.
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the state of press freedom in Guinea and urges the Guinean authorities to put an end to the widespread intimidation of critical and dissenting voices.
In any case, the sanction of journalists and media outlets and the lengthy interrogations of media professionals by the HAC, or any other authority in the country because of their work, are alarming indicators of the shrinking environment of freedom of expression and press freedom. While we understand the ruling junta’s desire to build a better and stronger Guinea, we urge them to steer clear of any path that would lay the foundation for the suppression of basic civil liberties in a democracy that is already struggling to regain its equilibrium.