Guinean press associations declare a press-free day

In response to recurrent acts of repression by the authorities, Guinea’s press associations have declared May 23, 2023, a press-free day. As a result, the independent audiovisual and print media, as well as online newspapers, will not publish on May 23.

Besides the press-free day, the associations will boycott all activities of the government and other transitional bodies until all restrictions are lifted; boycott the Semaine Nationale des Métiers de l’Information et de la Communication (SENAMIC), a weekly government media engagement. The associations will also organise a nationwide protest march on June 1, 2023.

This decision is the result of recent incidents of violations against the press. On May 18, 2023, gendarmes from the Autorité de Régulation des Postes et Télécommunication (Authority for the Regulation of Posts and Telecommunications, ARPT) allegedly assaulted the headquarters of the Afric Vision press group in Conakry, the capital of Guinea.

Mr. Sanou Kerfalla Cissé, the group’s CEO, said the attackers dismantled and took away the transmitters of the group’s two radio stations, Sabari FM and Love FM. The action disabled the two radio stations from operating. Mr. Cissé said that the gendarmes did not give the reasons for the dismantling. When he contacted the ARPT to understand the reasons for this act, he was met with total silence.

This action, which seems to be the last blow to the patience and tolerance of the media, comes a week after major Guinean news websites and social networks were severely restricted. The internet disruption was ordered to frustrate the political pressure group Forces Vives de Guinées (FVG) called citizens into the streets to protest the transitional government.

“NetBlocks metrics confirm the restriction of Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms in Guinea-Conakry on Wednesday 17 May 2023,” said NetBlocks, the global internet monitoring platform.

Besides these restrictions, when citizens take to the streets to express their discontent, they are met by the army and the police, who are quick to suppress any form of demonstration.

The multiple violations of the rights of citizens and the media, though very often denounced, provoke little or no reaction from the authorities. The perpetrators of these violations enjoy extraordinary freedom in total impunity.

In this context of political unrest and shrinking civic space, the press associations consider the government’s actions hostile to the press and declared its spokesperson, Minister Ousmane Gawal Diallo, an enemy of the press.

In response to these actions, they issued a joint statement on May 18, 2023, in which they condemned “the liberticidal actions taken by the Autorité de Régulation des Postes et Télécommunications against the Guinean media”.

“These actions, which began with the appointment of Mr. Mamady Doumbouya as Director General of the ARPT, initially consisted of slowing down and then stopping access to the main Guinean news sites. These actions have continued since Wednesday, May 17, 2023, with the slowing down or even blocking access to certain social networks including Facebook and WhatsApp and a raid by the gendarmes on the Afric Vision press group to dismantle the transmitters of the Sabari FM and Love FM radios”, the joint statement reads.

The response of press associations is indicative of a shared sense of injustice and concern at the multiple cases of abuse by the Guinean authorities.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) is deeply concerned about the repeated actions that undermine civic space, freedom of expression, and press freedom, which are under serious threat in Guinea. We urge the Transitional Government of Guinea to engage in a dialogue with media actors in order to build mutual trust and an enabling environment for the enjoyment of the rights to press freedom and access to information.

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