Guinean Gov’t Shuts Down Major Private Media Outlets

Guinea’s junta has banned five prominent private media outlets, dealing another blow to the broadcast sector which has been reeling under various attacks by the government.

A ministerial decree dated May 21, 2024, issued by Fana Soumah, Minister of Information and Communication, cited “failure to comply with content specifications” as the reason for the closures. The affected broadcast stations are Espace FM, Espace TV, Sweet FM from the Hadafo Group; Djoma FM and Djoma TV; and FIM FM.

The government’s decision was later affirmed by the Autorité de Régulation des Postes et Télécommunications (ARPT), the telecommunications regulator. The ARPT, through a notice signed by its Director General, Mamady Doumbouya ordered an immediate halt to all broadcasts and the dismantling of all operational installations of the affected broadcast stations.

This measure deals a devastating blow to the affected media groups, which have already endured over six months of broadcast jamming.

Media Reactions and government rebuff

Talibé Barry, director of FIM FM, stated, “we only had access to the announcement of this decision. We received no explanation for these measures, which seem to be the final blow in suppressing our media that apparently bother the transitional authorities.”

In a joint statement, the press groups Hadafo Médias, Djoma Groupe, and Groupe Fréquence Médias declared their intention to contest the administrative decision.

“Our media, having earned the reputation and trust of listeners and viewers, could not afford to act contrary to the regulations. If such an observation had been made by our authorities, they would have questioned us and asked for corrective measures to be taken,” they asserted.

However, the government maintains that its decision does not constitute an impediment to press freedom in Guinea, but is rather aimed at restoring sanity in the broadcast sector that is beset with bad practices, failure by the media to uphold public order and professionalism.

The government argued that “the abuse by certain radio and television stations of Article 6 of the contractual conditions relating to the obligation to respect the dignity of the human person and the requirements of national unity and public order has highlighted the difficulties these media have in complying with legal requirements.”

The riposte to the widespread condemnation of the measure was contained in a May 24, 2024 statement by the government.

Repression and sustainability threat

For several months, the junta in Guinea has intensified its offensive against the press, blocking news websites, jamming radio broadcasts, withdrawing television channels from operators’ packages, blocking social networks, and expelling foreign journalists.

Most private media organisations in Guinea rely heavily on government communications and advertising contracts to survive. The private sector is relatively small, offering little corporate advertising, most of which is directed at state-owned media. Subsidies to private media are insufficient, leaving them dependent on advertisers. However, restrictions or censorship make advertisers wary, leading them to terminate contracts. Consequently, private media are forced to reduce programming, cease operations, and lay off journalists due to a lack of resources.

While the Guinean authorities have a responsibility to ensure compliance with statutory regulations governing the media, it must balance the exercise of that responsibility with the social and economic realities in the country. Jamming broadcast stations and restricting access to news websites for several months cannot be a legitimate means of ensuring compliance. The fact that particular critical media organisations, all based in Conakry, have been the victims of these acts of restriction belies the authorities’ claim of sanitizing the broadcast sector and do so impartially.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the closure of these media outlets in Guinea and urges the authorities to reverse this decision, which undermines citizens’ right to access to information.

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