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)
In 2007, Guinea-Bissau faced significant setbacks in its efforts to protect media freedoms and build on previous gains made in reestablishing civil and political order. The earlier improvements followed the 2005 return from exile of former military strongman Joao Bernado “Nino” Vieira. After he won the presidential election in 2005, his administration had quickly passed a law that provided for freedom of speech and of the press. But the advances in press liberalization were soon followed by troubling cases of intimidation in the wake of political and economic crises in 2006.
Various acts of intimidation and harassment of media practitioners continued throughout 2007, dampening the initial enthusiasm that accompanied Vieria’s return. The dangers faced by journalists attempting to cover the activities of drug traffickers in Guinea-Bissau arguably represent the deadliest threat to press freedom, individual liberties, and personal security since the return of democracy. A fact-finding study by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) concluded that journalists face a “precarious situation,” warning that they now live with the constant fear of Colombian drug gangs and their local accomplices. Cocaine traffickers have frightened many journalists into silence, and at least two have fled into exile after receiving death threats in connection with stories linking drug traffickers to local security personnel, especially members of the marine unit. Allen Yero Embalo, a correspondent for Radio France Internationale, was one such reporter. He went into exile in France after unknown persons broke into his home and stole his camera, video footage of a report on drug trafficking, and over $1,200.
Other acts of intimidation in 2007 included the detention of Reuters journalist Alberto Dabo, who was held for several hours in June over a quote in which the interior minister supposedly said that soldiers were involved in the drug trade. Dabo was threatened with jail but was eventually released when he agreed to publicly clarify that the quote stemmed from a translator’s error. However, the following month he was again arrested on orders from the head of the navy, who was upset that the British news service ITN had attributed a similar quote to him. In the end, Dabo was charged with four crimes: defamation, abuse of freedom of the press, violating state secrets, and slander. His case was pending at year’s end. In late July, Dabo and three other journalists had temporarily gone into hiding after police ordered them to surrender over reports on the connection between the authorities and drug traffickers. In another act of intimidation, a special police unit, the “Ninjas,” seized the camera of a journalist in July because he was taking photographs of them as they conducted an operation to clear the streets of hawkers. The camera was later returned after the journalist apologized. Separately, the interior minister ordered the radio station Bombolom to close after it reported on the murder of a state official and the excessive use of force by police to stymie subsequent riots. The police commissioner refused to enforce the minister’s instructions and was later fired. The military similarly failed to close the station, which remained open at the end of the year.
The country’s only television station continues to be state run, while three private radio stations—Bombolom FM, Radio Pindjiguiti, and Voice of Quelele—compete with the state-run radio broadcaster, Radio Nacional, and the Portuguese-owned public broadcaster, RTP Africa. Three privately run newspapers operate alongside the state-owned weekly No Pintcha. The national printing press is the sole printing plant in the country, and because it is poorly funded, there are delays in publishing newspapers. The impact of such financial constraints has been particularly severe for the state-owned media because the government is unable to earmark adequate operational funding and private advertising is directed primarily toward the private media sector. No government interference with or attempts to censor the internet were reported in 2007, and 2.5 percent of the population had access to the internet.