Guinea: HRDs acquitted, but continue to face harassment; press freedom violations soar
[#Communiqué conjoint: https://t.co/o2KmXar5Ll]— Tournons La Page (@TournonsLaPage) June 14, 2023
🇬🇳#Guinée : Acquittement d’Oumar Sylla, alias @FONIKEMENGUE et @DialloIbrem dans un contexte toujours délétère pour la société civile. Avec @OBS_defenders et @AEDHmonde, nous appelons la #junte militaire à garantir l’indépendance de… pic.twitter.com/qEH29KsClY
Pro-democracy HRDs acquitted, but harassment continues
On 13th June 2023, the court of first instance of Dixinn acquitted HRDs Oumar Sylla, coordinator of Front National pour la Défense de la Constitution (FNDC) and Ibrahima Diallo, FNDC operation coordinator and coordinator of pro-democracy movement Tournons la Page Guinée (TLP-Guinée). Both were prosecuted on a range of charges, such as participation in a prohibited assembly, destruction of public and private property and intentional assault and battery. As reported previously on the Monitor, the two activists were arrested, along with Saïkou Yaya Barry – executive secretary of political party Union des Forces Républicaines – on 30th July 2022 following the FNDC protests of 28th and 29th July 2022, aimed at demanding more transparency in the transition to civilian rule, in which several people were killed. The Public Prosecutor has appealed the court ruling.
The two, together with activist Mamadou Billo Bah, were released from prison on 10th May 2023. As reported previously on the Monitor, FNDC mobilisation coordinator and member of TLP-Guinée Mamadou Billo Bah was violently arrested on 21st January 2023 in Conakry. He was held incommunicado for two days, without access to a lawyer, and subsequently taken to hospital as a result of the ill-treatment he endured at the hands of security forces.
🇬🇳#Guinée: @TournonsLaPage & @OBS_defenders apportent leur soutien à @DialloIbrem, empêché de quitter le territoire guinéen sans qu’aucune décision de justice ne le justifie.— The Observatory (@OBS_defenders) July 27, 2023
📣 Nous exigeons que cesse ce harcèlement judiciaire et policier!
Despite the acquittal of Oumar Sylla and Ibrahima Diallo, the two continued to be subjected to intimidation and harassment. Ibrahima Diallo has been prevented from leaving the country, without legal basis, on two occasions. On 1st June 2023, Diallo was prevented from travelling to a conference – the international forum on civic space organised by Tournons la Page Niger in Niamey. On 24th July 2023, he was again stopped at the airport by border police officers and prevented from travelling to France, where he was to participate in the Summer University of Social Movements and Solidarities (UEMSS). Close to a thousand copies of Sylla’s autobiography, ‘Stand up for the country’, in which he describes his journey as an activist, were confiscated by Guinean customs when they arrived from Dakar, Senegal. The Directorate General of Customs substantiated the confiscation by stating that the books violated article 56a and 56b, which states that “goods whose importation is forbidden for reasons of public order and public security are prohibited”.
Protests against military junta: several killed
On 10th May 2023, anti-government protests and clashes occurred in Conakry and surroundings. Protests had been temporarily suspended to give a chance to mediation efforts by religious leaders. On 28th April 2023, the Forces Vives de Guinée, a coalition of the main opposition parties, trade unions and civil society organisations, withdrew from what they call “unproductive” consultations and resumed street protests to demand the opening of a credible dialogue on a swift return to civilian rule. Other demands of the coalition are the lifting of the blanket ban on protests, issued by the military junta in May 2022, and the release of their members from prison (see under Association).
Some protesters were seen erecting barricades and throwing stones at security forces, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. According to the Forces Vives de Guinée coalition, the organisers of the protests, seven people were shot dead, 32 people were injured and 56 people were arrested. Protests to demand a return to civilian rule reportedly also took place in Labé and Nzérékoré.
Ahead of new protests, called by the Forces Vives coalition for 17th and 18th May 2023, transitional military authorities deployed the army in Conakry and surroundings. Furthermore, military authorities threatened to use anti-terrorism laws against protest organisers and protesters, which foresee life in prison for anyone who commits an act endangering the life or freedoms of others with the intention "to intimidate, provoke a situation of terror, create a feeling of insecurity within the populations” or to exert pressure on the State or to create “a situation of crisis within the populations”. Additionally, on 17th May 2023, access to social media platforms was restricted, while media group Afric Vision saw its transmitters dismantled and equipment seized (see under Expression).
De nombreux sites d'info suivent le mot d'ordre de la "Journée sans presse" en #Guinée pour protester contre les accès restreints aux sites d'info, réseaux sociaux, services de messagerie et brouillage du signal FM de certaines radios. pic.twitter.com/RK29H746hg— Sidy Yansané (@SidyYansane) May 23, 2023
Day without Press: media organisations protest soaring press freedom violations, censorship under military junta
On 23rd May 2023, organisations representing public and private media – online and print- organised a Day without Press to protest against a series of recent press freedom violations, including social media cuts, restrictions on access to online media, intimidation and confiscation of equipment by the transitional military authorities in response to the political protests organised by the Forces Vives de Guinée against the military transitional authorities (see under Peaceful Assembly).
⚠️ Confirmed: Live metrics show multiple social media platforms including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram have been restricted in the Republic of Guinea; the incident comes as authorities call in the army to deal with protests amid unrest— NetBlocks (@netblocks) May 17, 2023
📰 Report: https://t.co/5srJvq3asc pic.twitter.com/s2zuao6zra
Access to social media, news sites, radio stations restricted
On 17th May 2023, ahead of a two-day planned protest against the military junta, access to social media platforms and messaging services was restricted. Real-time network data by NetBlocks and tests conducted by the Guinean Association of Bloggers (ABLOGUI) have shown that mainly Facebook, Messenger, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram and TikTok were affected via the two leading providers in Guinea, MTN and Orange. The signal of certain radio stations, such as FIM FM 95.3 in Conakry and surroundings, was interrupted or jammed.
Confiscation of media equipment
On 17th May 2023, police officers claiming to have been sent by the Post and Regulatory Authority (ARPT) dismantled transmitters and confiscated equipment belonging to independent media group Afric Vision, which includes radio stations Love FM and Sabari FM.
Telecommunications Minister threatens media outlets
On 18th May 2023, Guinea’s Minister of Post and Telecommunications, Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, threatened any media with closure, “whether it is a radio, a television or a website making remarks which are likely to undermine national unity, to stir up community hatred, to raise one against the other to lead to tragedies in our country". In the same statement Diallo reminded media owners that “fewer than 2 percent” of media outlets were up to date with payments due to the state, implying outlets could be targeted through this avenue.
Diallo further denied that authorities were responsible for the restricted internet access and blamed it on technical problems with the submarine cable. He also denied government involvement in the confiscation of equipment at Afric Vision.
On 22nd May 2023, during an emergency meeting, media associations called Diallo an “enemy of the press”.
Physical violence against, intimidation of journalists
According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), several incidents of physical violence against and intimidation of journalists took place in the context of the anti-military junta protests in May 2023:
- On 17th May 2023, soldiers stopped two journalists – Aliou Maci Diallo of Guinée Info and Mamadou Macka Diallo of Guinée 114 – in Bambéto, Conakry, while they were out reporting on a motorcycle. They were first asked what they were doing, before one of the soldiers started to insult, threaten and assault the journalists. Aliou Maci Diallo received several hard blows to his head.
- On 9th May 2023, Ibrahima Foulamory Bah, journalist for independent online newspaper Courrier de Conakry, was violently detained by presidential guard members stationed at the office of the Prime Minister when he was covering a protest. The journalist’s phone was examined and he was photographed before the security officer released him.
- On 17th and 18th May 2023, Guinea’s national media regulator, Haute Autorité de la Communication (HAC) summoned staff members of FIM FM’s Mirador programme and Djoma FM’s On refait le monde programme, both programmes providing commentary on the protests. They were reprimanded about the “tone” used in their broadcasts.