Radio airwaves jammed, social media blocked in Guinea

For the past two weeks, radio stations have been jammed and social media restricted in Guinea, provoking anger, frustration and accusations of sabotage from the media and citizens. Amidst the accusations, government has been making a feisty denial that it is behind the blackout.

WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok cannot be accessed in the country except with VPN and the signals of a number of radio stations have been reduced to static.

FIM FM and Djoma FM were jammed on November 25, with Espace and Evasion FM experiencing similar disruptions on November 29.

“We have been off air since November 24, because our signal has been restricted to the barest minimum, and access to our transmission otherwise possible on digital platforms, has also been denied through the current internet restriction in the country. It is quite frustrating because the government denies deliberately interfering with our media platforms and yet is unable to provide any clear and convincing reason for the disruption,” said Hadja Kadija Barry, a senior journalist with Groupe Frequence Medias, operators of FIM FM, one of the four affected radio stations. The others are Djoma FM, Espace FM and Evasion.

On its part, Hadafo Medias, operators of Espace Radio condemned what it called the flagrant violation of the right of the public to access diversified and impartial information, adding that the disruptions have affected its partnerships and commercial relations with advertisers.

The disruptions have been condemned by the coalition of Human Rights Organisations in Guinea. (Ong de Défense des Droits Humains en Guinee’)

“ Our organisations express their concern over the recurrence of these practices which are contrary to the international commitments of our country in respect of press freedom and right of citizens to access information.”

The Human rights groups said it was, “concerned about the impact of the restrictions on Guinean start-ups and other small and medium scale enterprises whose activities are increasingly dependent on the internet and social media.”

Internet disruptions and technical attacks on media organisations often occur at critical moments. For example, on September 1, 2023, four days to the second anniversary of the coup that brought the current junta to power, access to the news website was restricted in the country. It followed a critical article challenging the government’s assessment of its economic achievements.

In this instance, many are linking the disruptions to the dismissal and arrest for corruption of the Minister for Public Health, Mamadou Phété Diallo, which is being extensively reported on, especially by Espace FM and Evasion, amidst perceptions that Mr Diallo is being made a scapegoat for much more extensive canker of corruption.

“Regardless of whether it is a deliberate act of sabotage or a technical fault at the national level, the Guinean authorities have a responsibility to, not only provide a convincing explanation for the disruptions but also move quickly to resolve it. The prevarications and lack of effort to end the jamming of radio stations and disruption of the internet is a gross violation of the rights of Guineans to access information. The situation is affecting business, education and social relations, and must not be allowed to persist even for another minute.” Said Muheeb Saeed, head of Freedom of Expression at the Media Foundation for West Africa.

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