Front Line Defenders condemns repression of independent media in Guinea
Front Line Defenders condemns the Guinean government’s increased repression of independent media and consistent attempts, over recent weeks, to muzzle journalists working for private media companies who are critical of government policy in relation to human rights.
On 2 November 2017, the High Communication Authority (HCA) in Guinea suspended the activities of radio station Espace FM, owned by Hadafo Media group, for “undermining national security” under Articles 39 and 40 of the 2010 Law on Freedom of the Press. On 1 November 2017, during its programme "Les Grandes Gueules", a radio journalist pointed out that the lack of resources and equipment in the Guinean army was a possible threat to the state in the event of a crisis. The show that airs from Monday to Friday is a platform where journalists debate political and social concerns in the country and discuss questions pertaining to the human rights situation in the country. Espace FM has also carried out investigative reports in the past which have exposed official corruption.
The HCA ordered the suspension of the radio station for seven days between 3 November and 9 November 2017. In August 2014 the authorities previously threatened Espace FM with closure. The Hadafo Media group consists of a TV channel and two radio stations in Conakry and three provincial relay stations.
Earlier that week, on 31 October 2017, dozens of journalists were attacked by local police and gendarmes while covering the arrest of Aboubacar Camara, the Director of Radio Gangan. The journalists that were gathered at the Gendarmerie of Matam in Conakry, were severely beaten with batons, trampled on and kicked while their equipment, including phones, cameras and recorders, was destroyed by police. Aboubacar Camara, Secretary General of the Radio Union in Guinea, had been arrested on 30 October 2017, and was released on bail on 31 October 2017 charged with “insulting the Head of State” and “dissemination of false news”. He was accused of allegedly beginning a rumour that the President of Guinea was dead, which he has denied. He is being charged under the 2010 Law on Freedom of the Press and must now appear before the prosecutor for assessment of the charges against him.
The Criminal Code which was revised and adopted on 4 July 2016, retains oppressive provisions criminalising contempt, defamation and insult, including of public figures, with penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment and a fine. The provisions remain vague and unclear, giving authorities wide discretion with regard to the prosecution of people who express dissenting opinions or views, or expose human rights violations, such as human rights defenders.
The work of human rights defenders and journalists is crucial in documenting and reporting on events of public interest and compliance with international human rights. Front Line Defenders calls on the Guinean authorities to guarantee the rights of freedom of information and freedom of expression and ensure that human rights defenders and journalists can carry out their legitimate and peaceful activities, including monitoring and documenting the actions of the police and other security forces, without threats to their security and fear of reprisals.