Guinea ALERT: Journalists assaulted

Azoca Bah, a reporter with the Le Lynx la Lance group and Aboubakar Akoumba, managing editor of the weekly L’Aurore newspaper were, on Friday, June 27, 2003, assaulted by armed soldiers of the presidential guard. Their documents, together with Bah’s camera and films, were also seized and crushed under foot.

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Guinea, the incident occurred in Touba, a provincial town 400 km north-east of the capital, Conakry, where Bah and Akoumba had gone to cover a Koran-reading session for the health of President Lansana Conté and a demonstration by supporters of his candidature in the next elections.

Organizers of the rally were outraged by the presence of the two reporters, whose newspapers they accused of carrying irreverent reports about the President in their previous editions.

It would be recalled that Benn Pepito, editor-in-chief and Cellou Diallo, paparazzo, of the La Lance newspaper, were summoned and questioned for three consecutive days on the 24, 25 and 26 March, 2003, over a photograph of President Lansana Conté, carried in the Issue No. 325 of the paper. Earlier, on March 18, 2003, officials of the Internal Security Service (DST) physically assaulted and excluded Bah and Diallo from a meeting of journalists called by Gen. Conté at the presidential palace.

Recent speculation and public debate about the health of the President have been fueled by the campaign, spearheaded by Elhadj Fodé Soumah, patron of the ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP), for the re-election bid of President Conté. Gen. Conté has been head of state in Guinea since 1984 when he led a military coup to take over government following the death of Sékou Touré.

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