The editor-in-chief Benn Pepito, 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, which was published in the March 19 edition (Issue No. 325) of the paper.
Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Guinea was informed that officials of the Internal Security Service (DST), who impugned ill motives on the newspaper, subjected the two journalists to prolonged hours of grilling. The police insinuated that the photograph was intended to ridicule the President and bring the image of the country into disrepute.
The photograph, taken at a meeting at “Sekhoutoureya” (the presidential palace) on March 18, 2003, showed General Conté looking tired and frail, and leaning unto the shoulder of one of his bodyguards, with one foot apparently concealed under his boubou (a long traditional frock).
Cellou Diallo and Azoca Bah, a reporter of the “Le Lynx-La Lance” group, were beaten up when they challenged a decision by guards at the presidential palace to deny them access to the meeting convened by the President.
Print runs of the publication, which seemed to lend credence to speculation that the President’s leg was amputated when he recently went to Morocco for medical treatment, quickly sold out. There had been increasing public anxiety and expressions of concern about the health of the President, who had not made any public appearances for some months, and was rumoured to be convalescing in Wawa, his home village.