In what looks like a continuation of recent hostility against the media in Guinea, the authorities have shut down four radio stations over nonpayment of license fees.
On December 11, 2017 the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (l’Agence Régulation des Postes et Télécommunications-ARPT) cut the signals of private radio stations Sabari FM, Gangan FM, Djigui FM and Evasion FM.
According to officials of the ARPT, the action was taken because the affected stations have not paid license fees amounting to several millions Guinean francs. The ARPT authorities added that over 40 radio stations which are not in good standing with regard to their licensing conditions will be closed.
Relations between Guinea President, Alpha Conde and the media have not been too cordial in recent times. This incident adds to many recent incidents that seem to suggest a planned state crackdown on the media in Guinea.
The MFWA’s correspondent in Guinea reports that the media fraternity in Guinea widely perceives the closures as a continuation of the recent siege on the media by President Conde’s government. He said the president himself hinted at such an operation by the ARPT earlier on November 18, 2017.
Three weeks later, (December 5, 2017), the APRT wrote to demand payment of the license fees from 47 private radio and television stations across the country. The regulator gave a week’s deadline (December 11) for the payment of arrears.
With the subscription rate for commercial radio stations at 20 million Guinea Francs (about US$220) a year, some radios have accumulated arrears amounting to US$30,000 over the years. While the radio stations have defaulted in payment of the fees, many have said the timing of the closure appears to suggest that the government is using state agencies to crack down on dissent and freedom of expression.
The MFWA is deeply concerned about recent developments in the media landscape in Guinea. In a recent article on the situation in the country, Sulemana Braimah, Executive Director of MFWA highlighted the critical press freedom situation in the country and urged human rights organisations to begin to look at the situation in the country and put Guinea on the front burner for media rights advocacy and media development support.
We believe that the six days’ notice given to the radio stations to settle their longstanding indebtedness was too short, especially given the amounts involved. We therefore call on the regulator and the affected media stations to negotiate a settlement plan, to prevent the stations from collapsing.