News website blocked; four protesters killed, as Guinea marks 2 years of junta rule

Guinea marked two years of junta rule on September 5, 2023 on a sombre note as the authorities brutally enforced a ban on all processions. Four people were reportedly killed in clashes with security forces in the capital Conakry.

The ban particularly targeted a protest march planned by the civilian opposition to demand an early return to civilian rule.

In a statement issued on the eve of the march, the Minister of Local Government reminded the public about “the formal ban on support groups mobilisations and protests in public places” in force since May 2022. The statement “cautioned all persons against violating the order.”

To enforce the ban, a large number of security agents were deployed in the streets, especially in the opposition strongholds in Conakry. Some young people protested the deployment, leading to clashes with the security forces.

The Forces Vives, the umbrella opposition group, said four youngsters aged from 15 to 18 were killed in the clashes. The government is yet to comment on the reported deaths.

On September 1, 2023, (four days to the second anniversary of the 2021 coup), access to the was restricted in the country, in what the management of the news website consider an attack by the government.

Contacted by the MFWA, Mamoudou Keita, journalist and administrator of the online media, revealed that access to the site had been restricted following several acts of intimidation by government officials. Keita refrained from revealing names, citing safety concerns.

“I was called by an executive from the presidency asking me to take down one of my articles,” Keita told MFWA.

Published on July 5 2023, the article challenged the government’s assessment of Guinea’s economic growth during the transition.

“I am deeply affected by what is happening. I had to put most of my staff on leave. We’ve lost some of our contracts because we can no longer publish. For the time being, I’m just publishing on Facebook,” lamented Mamoudou Keita.

Another critical news website, has been inaccessible inside Guinea since August 15, 2023, depriving many Guineans of their fundamental right to information. However, access via virtual private networks (VPNs) remains possible.

“They tried to intimidate us, and now they want to prevent us from existing,” Nouhou Baldé, founder of Guiné, told the MFWA in a telephone interview.

“We thought the problem was technical. But after talking to the webmaster and the host, they told me that there was no technical issue and that I should check with the Internet service providers,” Baldé said.

Apart from the critical analyses and news coverage produced by his medium, the founder of Guiné says he cannot fathom any other reason for the interruption of his site. He emphasized that Guiné is an independent and freely operated platform.

The Guinean Online Press Association (AGUIPEL) lodged a complaint regarding the matter to the HAC on August 28, 2023. Following this, Boubacar Yacine Diallo, the president of the HAC, sought the assistance of Mamady Doumbouya, Director of the Autorité de régulation des postes et télécommunications (ARPT), who said investigations were ongoing.

While Guiné remains accessible through a mirror site, the majority of Guineans remain uneducated about the use of VPNs.

The MFWA strongly condemns all forms of censorship and impediments to press freedom in Guinea, as they constitute flagrant violations of the fundamental right of access to information.

We therefore call on the Guinean authorities to put an end to these restrictions and uphold press freedom and freedom of expression, as they have committed to in their democratic promises.

We also deplore the reported killing of four protesters by the security forces and urge the authorities to investigate the incident in order to ensure that justice is served.

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