Four local radio stations were forced to shut down temporarily and a news website was suspended for one month on election day in Guinea.
The shutdown order was given by Sadou Camara, governor of the administrative region of Kankan on October 18, 2020, as provisional results of that day’s presidential elections began to filter in.
The affected stations, Futur Media, Baobab Media, Horizon FM, Milo FM and Nabaya FM were forced to suspend broadcasting while they were picking a live feed from Conakry-based Sabari Fm which was broadcasting election results.
It took the intervention of Sanou Kerfalle Cissé, the president of the Union of Independent Radio and Television of Guinea (URTELGUI) to make the Governor rescind his decision. The URTELGUI argued that the results from the polling stations had been certified and so their publication was lawful. The stations were eventually allowed to resume broadcasting after being off air for close to an hour.
On the same day, the online news website, guineematin.com was suspended from publication for one month by the High Authority for Communication (HAC).
A statement read on national television indicated that, the suspension of guineematin.com followed the refusal of the general administrator of the website to stop a live broadcast on the site’s Facebook page of official polling station results.
Prior to the elections, several freedom of expression organisations had called on President Alpha Conde to keep the internet on before, during and after the elections. While the call was heeded, the suspension of Guineematin.com and the momentarily shutdown of the four radio stations is disappointing.
“It is disappointing because there is no law prohibiting the dissemination of official results announced and posted at the polling stations,” said Nouhou Baldé, the founder of guineematin.com.
Meanwhile, journalists of guineematin.com came under attack from suspected political party thugs in Kankan, on October 13, five days to the elections. The journalists, who were covering the campaign of Cellou Dalein Diallo, the main opponent of President Alpha Condé, were, however, lucky to escape the attempted petrol bomb attack.
“We were at the bridge when a motorbike stopped in front of us. Some unknown people got off. One of them took out a bottle of petrol. He came towards us. The others threw projectiles at the front windscreen to break it. That’s when we realised it was an attack.” Alpha Assia Baldé, a reporter from the website told the MFWA. “Our driver moved quickly. The attackers followed us for 2 km before abandoning the chase”
The MFWA condemns the press freedom violations recorded in Guinea before and during the elections. Access to information is one of the indispensable conditions for transparent and credible elections. We therefore call on the media regulatory authority to lift the suspension on guineematin.com.
The authorities should also investigate the attempted petrol bomb attack o the crew of the online media outlet.