State authorities in Guinea have banned the Issue No. 2239, dated 7 – 13 December, 2003, of the “Jeune Afrique l’Intelligent” newspaper.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Guinea, court officials who effected the seizure order on December 10, refused to give reasons for their action. However, the publication in question had carried an article with the headline, “Witch-hunt in Army”, which the Guinean authorities are said to have been unhappy about. The story documented instances of the current wave of arrests and reprisals against key opposition figures and some army officials perceive to be opposed to the third term presidential ambitions of Gen. Lansana Conté.
In spite of the ban, vendors are reported to be selling photocopies of the newspaper on the sly, in response to popular public demand.
Following rumours about a coup attempt in mid-November 2003, scores of army officials have been arrested and detained by loyalist forces. Prominent among the detainees are Kadr Doubuya, a former army Commandant; Commander Aly Camara, the second in command of the presidential guard; Sikdiki Camara, a senior official at the gendarmerie training school; and Lieutenant Alpha Ousmana Diallo, son of Bubacar Biro Diallo, former speaker of parliament who later became a fierce critic of the president.
The 69 years old Lansana Conté has been in office since 1984 when the army took over power in a coup barely one week after the death of Sékou Touré, the country’s first post-independence president. Gen. Conté stood for and won the country’s first multi-party presidential elections in 1993, amid claims and accusations of ballot rigging and voter intimidation. He was re-elected in 1998, again under highly disputed and generally discredited circumstances.
In November 2001, a nationwide referendum, believed to be largely flawed, amended the constitution to allow the president to run for an unlimited number of five-year terms. Consequently, the ailing former military dictator is standing for the next elections scheduled for December 21, 2003. All the major opposition parties in the country have boycotted the elections because of persistent intimidation and their lack of confidence in the process.
Since March this year, the MFWA has reported at least four incidents of the abuse of the freedom of expression rights of journalists and newspapers for publications related to the second term ambitions of President Conté.