French

Wave of arrests of opposition supporters and activists; journalists continue to be imprisoned

Association

At least 400 opposition supporters and civil society activists arrested, says human rights group

In a statement on 2nd February 2021, human rights group Amnesty International said that since the announcement of the official results of the presidential elections in October 2020, authorities have targeted at least 400 opposition supporters and civil society members in a massive wave of arrests. Four people – including three members of opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) who were reportedly arrested in connection with protests against a new constitution in March 2020 – died while in pre-trial detention in the main prison in Conakry. Authorities have attributed these deaths to natural causes or illnesses, but according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) family members, lawyers and activists who they spoke to claimed the deaths were due to torture, ill-treatment, poor detention conditions and lack of adequate medical care.

Activist sentenced to 11 month prison sentence for ‘criminal participation in a gathering likely to disturb public order’

On 28th January 2021, the court of Mafanco, in Conakry sentenced Front National de la Défense de la Constitution (FNDC) activist and deputy coordinator of pro-democracy movement Tournons la Page Guinée Oumar Sylla to a prison sentence of 11 months for ‘criminal participation in a gathering likely to disturb public order’. As reported previously on the Monitor, Sylla, also known as Foniké Menguè, was arrested on 29th September 2020 in Matoto, Conakry, while he was preparing to participate in a FNDC protest against a third mandate for president Alpha Condé. According to human rights organisation International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Sylla was interrogated without the presence of his lawyer and was placed in pretrial detention.

In a statement issued on the occasion of Sylla’s seventh month in prison on 29th April 2021, human rights organisations Tournons la Page, ACAT-France, Amnesty International, Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders) and Agir ensemble pour les droits humains said:

“That the militant Oumar Sylla, like many others arbitrarily detained, is still in prison simply for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, proves the manifest desire of the Guinean authorities to continue to silence any dissenting voice even after the presidential election. They should all be released immediately and unconditionally.” (translated from French)

Two other activists of FNDC, a coalition of civil society actors, opposition supporters and trade unions, formed in April 2019 in response to the then perceived attempts to change the Constitution in order for president Condé to pursue a third term, were sentenced on 13th January 2021 to a one-year prison sentence on charges of inciting an insurrection. Soulemaye Conde and Youssouf Dioubate were arrested in September 2020 in the lead-up to the presidential elections.

Expression

Journalist detained for ‘insulting the head of state’

Despite the decriminalisation of press offences in Guinea, journalist Amadou Diouldé Diallo was detained and imprisoned. On 27th February 2021, Diallo, a sports journalist who works for the public broadcaster Radio Télévision Guinéenne (RTG) and other media outlets, was arrested in relation to his appearance in the radio programme ‘L’œil du Lynx’ on the privately-owned radio station Lynx FM, where he reportedly criticised president Alpha Condé. On 1st March 2021, Diallo was charged with ‘insulting the head of state’ and placed in pretrial detention. Due to illness, the journalist was transferred to a hospital the following day but remained detained. A request for his conditional release was rejected on 10th March 2021. Angela Quintal of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) commented:

“Diallo’s arrest and detention, let alone his continued harassment while hospitalised, promotes an atmosphere of fear and is a flagrant violation of the rights of a free press.”

Journalist sentenced to six months in prison

Another sports journalist, Ibrahima Sadia Bah, was sentenced on 4th February 2021 to six months in prison and a fine of 500,000 Guinean francs (50 USD) for ‘defamation, public insults and slanderous denunciation’ of the president of the Guinean Football Federation (FEGUIFOOT), Mamadou Antonio Souaré. Bah was sentenced in relation to an article in the media outlet guinee7.com on allegations of corruption against Souaré by an unsuccessful candidate in the FEGUIFOOT presidential elections. According to Reporters without Borders (RSF), the prosecutor asked that the defendant be released due to the offence being unproven. Christophe Deloire of RSF commented:

“The detention of journalists, even though the law does not allow it, remains too frequent in Guinea. They are also unprecedented in their duration. We call for the release without any condition of these journalists in accordance with the applicable laws.”

Three radio journalists handed down suspended prison sentences for defamation

On 13th January 2021, the Court of Kaloum sentenced three journalists of radio station Nostalgie Guinée – Sidi Diallo, Thierno Madjou Bah and Ibrahima Lincoln Soumah – to a suspended prison sentence of two months and a fine of 500,000 Guinean francs (50 USD) each for defamation. The three had been prosecuted since 2018 after a defamation complaint by the head of the private school Saint Joseph de Cluny in Kaloum following the broadcast of the programme ‘Africa 2015’ in which a teacher at the school reportedly said that there had been ‘abusive dismissals’. The Syndicat de la Presse Privée de Guinée (SPPG; Guinea Private Press Union) condemned the sentencing in a press conference the following day, calling it ‘legally unfounded’, highlighting that the journalists were sentenced under the Penal Code instead of the 2010 Law on Press Freedom, which decriminalised press offences.