40 radio stations suspend broadcasting for 24 hours to protest press freedom violations

On 4th February 2018, Guinea held local elections for the first time since 2005, which were largely won by the ruling party of President Condé - Rassemblement du Peuple de Guinée (Rally of Guinean People - RPG). The main opposition party Union des forces démocratiques de Guinée (Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea - UFDG), however, won in the country's capital Conakry. Soon after the elections, opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo of UFDG, along with other opposition leaders, made claims of large scale fraud committed by the ruling party around the elections.

Also soon after the elections, clashes broke between members of the opposition and security forces. At least seven people were reportedly killedincluding five infants, after houses and building were set on fire in Kalinko. 

The post-election violence was condemned by international organisations and civil society. Organisation Guinéenne de Défense des Droits de l’Homme et de Citoyen (Guinean Organisation for the Protection of Human and Citizen Rights) called on the authorities:

"to take all necessary steps to shed light on all violence, to institute legal proceedings against all the sponsors and perpetrators of human rights violations and to ensure that they are judged in accordance with the laws of the Republic".

United Nation’s special representative for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, called for peace and calm in the country while awaiting the electoral results. Similarly, the Economic Community of West African States called on political parties and independent candidates to refrain from violence and to prioritise peaceful solutions in accordance with the rule of law.

Expression

On 3rd November 2017, prominent radio station Espace FM was suspended for a week by Guinea’s media regulator, Haute Autorité de la Communication (HAC), for airing the programme "Grande Gueules" on 2nd November in which panelists reportedly decried the state of military barracks in the country and the lack of reintegration programmes for Guinean soldiers, as well as psychological assistance for soldiers coming back from peace-keeping missions. Although the head of the radio station insisted that “there was no information which could be considered to be subversive or illegal,” the HAC deemed that the programme “undermine[d] national security, the morale of the public forces and public order”. As reported previously on the Monitor, the HAC suspended the same programme earlier on 1st June 2017. 

Following the declaration of a general and unlimited strike in the education sector in November 2017 (detailed in the section on Peaceful Assembly), President Alpha Condé called the strike "illegal" and threatened to shut down any radio station that disseminates statements made by the union's leadership, including by education union leader Aboubacar Soumah, would be considered accomplices to the "rebellion". 

On 27th November, local authorities shut down BTA FM, a radio station located in the city of Labé in northern Guinea, for broadcasting a telephone interview with Soumah during its programme "Coup de Gueule". Two journalists with BTA FM - Alpha Oumar Fogo Diallo and Mamadou Saïdou Diallo - were subsequently taken to the national security department for interrogation, and were later released. Additionally, TV and radio station Gangan's signal was interrupted on the same day after broadcasting an interview with Soumah a few days earlier, although it is not clear if the interruption was linked to the interview. 

After its Extraordinary General Assembly on 27th November, the media union Union des Radios et Télévisions Libres de Guinée (URTELGUI) decided to protest violations of freedom of expression by suspending all broadcasting for 24 hours from 12:00am on 28th November, following a three-hour synchronised broadcast on freedom of the press. More than 40 radio stations followed URTELGUI's call to action and solidarity. In an official statement, the HAC reiterated that it is the only institution with the power to suspend or shut down media outlets, requesting that journalists "practice a journalism in service of peace, security and the development of Guinea". 

On 11th December 2017, the Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Agency shut down four radio stations over non-payment of their license fees. With a licence for commercial radio stations costing 20 million Guinean francs (about 220 USD) a year, some radios have accumulated substantial arrears over the years. 

Armed men fired at of the home of Abdoul Latif Diallo, journalist and director of the online media outlet depecheguinee.com on the night of 31st January and 1st February 2018. The attack follows death threats to Diallo and his family the previous week. Diallo told Guineematin.com that the attack may be

 "...to tell me that if I do not stop my investigations, they will carry out their threats, which consist of killing, killing my wife and my parents".

Peaceful Assembly

Protests against violations of freedom of expression

On 7th November 2017, approximately 100 journalists, media associations and civil society protested against violations of press freedom in the country after the HAC's decision to suspend Espace FM. The protest occurred without incident. Two days later, on 9th November journalists in the city of Labé also protested for two hours against press violations, including violence against journalists. 

On 31st October 2017, numerous journalists gathered in front of the offices of the gendarmerie Eco 3 of Matam, a suburb of Conakry, to protest the questioning and detention of Aboubacar Camara, director general of the RTV Gangan. Camara was detained on 30th October on charges of "diffusion of false information and attack against the person of Head of State". He allegedly spread rumours on the death of President Alpha Condé. Gendarmes reacted to the protest by attacking some of the journalists,several whom were injured and some equipment, such as cameras and mobile phones, was destroyed. A formal complaint was made against the gendarmerie Eco 3 on 16th November. Camara was conditionally released on 31st October, and will have to present himself at the Court of Mafanco at a later time. 

Social unrest: strikes paralyse the country

The leadership of Syndicat libre des enseignants et chercheurs de Guinée (Union of Teachers and Researchers of Guinea) declared a general and unlimited strike in the education sector on 13th November 2017 to demand a raise in teachers' wages. In response, the authorities arrested three syndicalists - Mohamed Doumbouya, Fodé Abass and Mohamed Kaba - on 18th November on charges of disturbing public order and calling for an illegal strike. Violent clashes broke out between students protesting the closure of schools and security forces on 20th November, during which two youth were killed. The strike was suspended on 7th December; however, the Union announced another strike starting from 12th February. 

Another workers' union - Union générale des travailleurs de Guinée - announced a general strike from 26th February 2018 to protest mismanagement of contributions to the National Social Security Fund, politicisation of the administration, the state's indifference to occupational accidents and hazards, and obstacles to trade unions realising the full exercise of their rights. 

Opposition protest - post-election violence

On 26th February, a day of "ville morte" (dead city) was organised and largely observed in Guinea's capital Conakry. It was organised by the opposition party UFDG who blames the post-election violence (see section above) on the security forces. According to news reports, thousands of youth erected barricades early in the morning and burned tyres. There was one report of violence. According to opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo, one young student was killed.