The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the closure of Guinea Bissau’s public broadcasting channel, Radiotélévision Nationale de la Guinée-Bissau and calls for the immediate reopening of the media outlet.
Since February 29, 2020, soldiers close to the elected President, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, have occupied the premises of the RTGB, after evacuating the staff, thus grounding both the radio and television services.
The soldiers’ action followed the refusal of both the radio and television units of the national broadcasting service to cover the inaugural ceremony of President Embalo whose victory in the second round of the country’s December 29, 2019 elections is being contested by candidate Domingos Simoes Pereira and his party, Parti africain pour l’indépendance de la Guinée et du Cap-Vert (PAIGC).
Events in Guinea Bissau over the past few days have plunged the country deeper into the very political abyss from which the elections were supposed to salvage. The PAIGC, which has a majority in Parliament, say the elections were marred by fraud and have formally requested the Supreme Court to order a recount. In response to the inauguration of Embalo ahead of the Court’s verdict, the PAIGC have also named Speaker of Parliament, Cipriano Cassama, as interim President.
In line with its policy of neutrality and pending outcome of PAIGC’s court action, the national broadcaster decided not to cover the inauguration of Embalo and Cassama on February 27 and 28, respectively. Cassama however announced his resignation on March 1, citing a barrage of death threats against him.
The MFWA fully supports the action of the state broadcaster of maintaining neutrality and not broadcasting the premature inaugurations. The military’s action of shutting down the state broadcaster in an attempt to cow it into submission is a sad indication that press freedom under will be under threat under an Embalo administration if his victory is eventually confirmed. We therefore call for the immediate withdrawal of the soldiers from the premises of the state broadcasting organisation and the full resumption of broadcast services without any interferences.