The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) petitioned the Commander of the National Gendarmerie and Director of the Military Legal Department Ibrahima Baldé on March 3, 2015, to express the organisation’s concern about violations by gendarmes against journalists.
Although acts of violence perpetrated against journalists by gendarmes have become frequently occurrent in Guinea, the state has failed to hold most perpetrators accountable. Consequently, journalists cannot rely on the state’s prosecutorial justice so some have turned to other redress mechanisms instead. On October 29, 2014, the Lynx-la Lance-Lynx Press Group, owners of Radio Lynx FM, lodged a successful complaint at the Kaloum County Court against Staff Sergeant Abdoulaye Diallo for assaulting David Tchopn Bangoura.
Efforts by media institutions to seek justice are extremely commendable. However, Guinea’s failure to take initiative to launch proceedings against perpetrators on its own has the potential to create a culture of impunity and undermine press freedom in Guinea.
The MFWA therefore petitioned General Baldé urging him to sanction gendarmes who disregard the important role of journalists in upholding democratic principles by attacking and trying to silence them.
In its petition, the MFWA also commended General Baldé for his personal commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression in Guinea. It expressed its willingness to collaborate with the National Gendarmerie to introduce programmes to sensitise gendarmes to see the media as partners in democracy and peace-building.
The MFWA hopes to strengthen its relationships with all state actors in order to improve press freedom and safety of journalists in West Africa.
Below is the petition:
Commander of the National Gendarmerie and Director of the Military Legal Department
PETITION: IMPLEMENT MEASURES TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF JOURNALISTS
The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) presents its compliments to you.
The MFWA is a regional organisation headquartered in Accra, Ghana. The organisation works with partners across West Africa to promote freedom of expression and democracy in the West Africa sub-region. For nearly two decades, the MFWA has championed media freedom and freedom of expression in all countries in West Africa including Guinea.
As part of our work, we report on violations against the media and persons whose freedom of expression rights have been violated. We always work to advance media professional standards.
We write to you to express our grave concern about recent attacks on journalists by members of the gendarmerie in Guinea. Most recently, Abdoulaye Oumou Sow, a reporter with the guineematin.com news website was attacked on February 19, 2015.
Sow was physically assaulted by two gendarmes while he was covering a march organised by Guinean civil society activists to protest the perceived state of insecurity in the country. They slapped him and pushed him to the floor. We are aware that you have expressed your commitment to punish these gendarmes, and we commend your statements. We hope that you hold these perpetrators accountable just like you did in July 2014, when your institution arrested and detained some gendarmes for assaulting Joseph Siba Guilavogui, managing editor of Le Fouineur.
In addition to these incidents, there have been several attacks by gendarmes on journalists that remain unpunished by the National Gendarmerie. It is our belief that holding violators of freedom of expression accountable can combat impunity and promote press freedom.
By this letter, we call upon the National Gendarmerie High Command to sanction gendarmes who disregard the mandate of journalists and attack them in their line of duty. It is important that such attacks are prevented as much as possible, so we urge you to introduce programmes in order to sensitise gendarmes on the need to see the media as partners in democracy and peace-building by respecting and protecting journalists and press freedom. The MFWA will be happy and willing to collaborate with your high office for such sensitisation on media rights for your officers.
I wish to commend you for your personal commitment to press freedom and freedom of expression in Guinea.