Guinea’s media groaning under continued repression

Guinea’s media regulatory body, the Haute Autorité de la Communication (HAC) suspended for three months, Mamadou Taslima Diallo, alias Williams Campbell, host of the show “Star en ligne” on West Africa TV.

Citing articles 107 and 112 of Law L/2010/02/CNT of 22 June 2010 on Press Freedom in the Republic of Guinea, the HAC accused the journalist of insulting his guest during his show. Diallo admitted the accusation before the HAC’s commissioners who had summoned him, together with the management of West Africa TV.

According to Articles 107 and 112 of the law, only repeated offences should incur suspension of the offending programme for three to six editions. The sanctions are, therefore, excessive and inconsistent with the law.

In another incident of strict censorship, the HAC suspended the news website for 9 months while its editor, Abdoul Latif Diallo, was suspended for 6 months on January 17, 2024. The suspension followed complaints from Guinea’s Minister of Economy and Finance, Moussa Cissé, and the governor of the country’s central bank, Karamo Kaba, in connection to an article by the media about alleged embezzlement of public funds.

In its statement, the HAC accused the media and its editor of violating journalistic principles by disseminating falsehoods and refusing to honour its summons. This is not the first time Diallo and his media outlet have faced suspension as they were suspended last year in September over a similar accusation.

The news website is one of the many media outlets that were recently targeted by Guinean authorities. On January 3, 2024, the publishing director of the news website Mosaïque Guinée, Mohamed Bangoura reported that the media became inaccessible in Guinea, adding that readers could only access the site’s content with a virtual private network (VPN). Bangoura said he received no notice of an official decision to block his media and all efforts to contact the relevant authorities were to no avail.

In a separate incident on January 14, 2024, Guinean authorities deported French freelance journalist Thomas Dietrich. The journalist, who was working on story about an alleged embezzlement at the national oil company, was accused of entering the country illegally. Dietrich, however, reported that he had entered the country with a visa and was not given any written explanation for his expulsion.

Police officers arrested Dietrich at his hotel in the capital, Conakry, and seized his phones and computer, before questioning him about their contents. He was only able to retrieve his phone.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the wanton suspension of media houses and journalists in Guinea and calls on the HAC to apply that sanction in extreme cases. We also call on the regulator to have a frank dialogue with the media to discuss concerns about professional standards and ethics, rather than stay content with the issuance of suspension orders. While we also deplore the arrest and subsequent expulsion of the French journalist Thomas Dietrich, and urge the authorities to display more tolerance towards the media. Meanwhile, the MFWA urges Guinean journalists and media professionals to uphold the highest professional and ethical standards.

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