Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although long-ruling president Lansana Conte faced increased pressure for power-sharing and reform in 2007, the regime’s practice of bullying the media remained largely unchanged. The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but this right is not respected in practice and has been widely abused, partly through restrictive legislation that designates defamation and slander as criminal offenses and permits the authorities to censor publications. The number of criminal prosecutions of journalists declined during the year, but the criminal libel law continued to be used. In August, a Conakry court imposed suspended sentences of six months in prison on two private newspaper directors in connection with articles alleging corruption by a former government minister. The directors, Thiernodjo Diallo of La Verite and Abdoul Azziz Camara of Liberation, were also fined $13,000 and ordered to publish the verdict in their newspapers.
The most serious crackdown on the press took place in January and February during an 18-day national strike, called to protest rising prices, in which security forces killed some 137 people. Three of the four private radio stations in Conakry were taken off the air under a presidential decree that authorized the military to muzzle the print, broadcast, and online media. The editor of the private radio station Liberte FM, Mohamed Tondon Camara, was arrested with a staff worker and detained by presidential security guards for two days after the station aired a call-in program in which callers asked for Conte’s resignation. Camara said his release came only after the intervention of the president’s brother. Another private radio station, Familia FM, was also forced off the air by presidential guards following a call-in program. The strike was called off when Conte agreed to transfer most of his powers to an appointed prime minister. Media restrictions were subsequently eased, but journalists continued to practice self-censorship.
During the crisis, Information Minister Boubacar Yacine Diallo ordered all broadcast stations to black out news of the strike, and most of the country’s private newspapers temporarily ceased operations. Diallo also called Liberte FM to halt its broadcast of an interview of a union leader discussing repression of the demonstrations. The new prime minister fired Diallo in May and replaced him with Justin Morel Junior, a popular journalist and communications officer at UNICEF. Diallo had once been a respected independent journalist and newspaper editor, and served in 2006 as the founding chairman of the Conseil National de la Communication, which is credited with beginning programs to improve the professionalism of media practitioners.
State-owned media provide extensive, mostly favorable coverage of the government but also criticize local-level officials and increasingly report on opposition activities. Although there are four private radio stations, the state-owned Radio Television Guinea (RTG) continues to be the only television broadcaster and downplayed the severity of the 2007 crisis. Guinea had been the last country in West Africa to allow private broadcasting, doing so only in 2006. Privately owned print media openly criticize the president and the government. Ten private weeklies publish regularly in Conakry, while a dozen others publish only sporadically. In 2007, the government gave financial subsidies of US$105,000 to private newspapers through the Guinea Association of Independent Editors, which divided the money among various press organizations. It was the second year in a row that the government had given the grant, rejecting calls by the editors for a doubled subsidy that would support more publications. About 80 of the country’s 350 media organizations received money from the subsidy during the year. International media operate within the country, including Radio France Internationale, which was forced to suspend its broadcasts for 24 hours during the protests due to power cuts. The government does not directly restrict access to the internet, but use of the medium is still very low, largely due to illiteracy, limited access points, and high cost of access. The proportion of the population estimated to have access to the internet is 0.5 percent.