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Guinea's President ousted in military coup; release of HRD; several journalists attacked

Togo's President attends the opening session of the ECOWAS' extraordinary summit on the political situation in Guinea following a coup, Accra, Ghana, September 16, 2021. REUTERS/Kweku Obeng via Gallo

Guinea's President ousted in military coup 

On 5th September 2021, Guinea’s Special Forces under the leadership of Mamady Doumbouya detained President Alpha Condé, suspended the Constitution and dissolved the government and its institutions, prompting regional bodies the African Union and West African ECOWAS to suspend Guinea's membership. The coup follows less than a year after Condé was re-elected for a controversial third term, which required a change in the Constitution, as it contained a two-term limit for presidential mandates. In March 2020, a constitutional referendum went ahead despite months of protests. Since October 2019, authorities had cracked down on protests and activism against any modification in the Constitution to allow Condé to run for a third term, and later against a third term of the latter. 

Although the Comité National du Rassemblement et du Développement (CNRD), the military authority, has released dozens of political prisoners, including activist Oumar Sylla (see under Association) and has held consultations with the opposition, civil society and other societal actors, the duration and modality of the transition to civilian rule is yet to be announced. On 27th September 2021, the CNRD published its National Transitional Charter, outlining a roadmap to civilian rule, including the drafting of a new constitution and the holding of democratic elections, and identifies four institutions in charge of the transition - the CNRD, the president of the transition, a government and a legislative body, the National Transitional Council. Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya was inaugurated as President on 1st October 2021. 

Following the military coup, human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked the CNRD to restore and respect fundamental freedoms. Press freedom organisation Reporters without Borders (RSF), after consultations with journalists and media organisations in the country, set forward ten recommendations to guarantee press freedom during Guinea's transition. 

Expression

Military coup: press freedom violations

On 5th September 2021, the day of the military coup, unknown perpetrators attacked two national public institutions and national state-owned newspaper Horoya in Guinea's capital Conakry, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The Ministry of Information and Communication, the National Directorate of Rural Radio of Guinea were first attacked, and perpetrators reportedly stole working materials from the editorial office of the national public press of Guinea. The premises of the newspaper Horoya were likewise broken into, with assailants stealing computers and furniture. 

On 9th October 2021, officers of the military special forces raided the media outlet Djoma Média, owned by an ally of former President Condé, claiming they were searching for missing state-owned vehicles. At least two people were injured when shots were fired after security guards on the premises of the media outlet refused to let the military officers in. They eventually managed to enter the premises but failed to find the missing vehicles. A member of the military junta, the CNRD, later expressed publicly its solidarity with Djoma Média, and said the issue would be 'settled at the level of the military hierarchy'. 

In October 2021, private media outlets seized their professional body, the Syndicat des Professionnels de la Presse de Guinée (Union of Press Professionals of Guinea), as they saw themselves excluded from covering certain official events by the CNRD, such as the national consultations between CNRD and sectors of society, which was uniquely covered by the public broadcaster, Radio Télévision Guinéenne (RTG), the inauguration ceremony of the President of the Transition and, more recently, the inauguration of the Prime Minister. 

Local government official storms radio station, assaults journalists

On 12th August 2021, District of Mamou local councillor Alpha Saliou Barry stormed the premises of radio station Global FM and assaulted three journalists, who were live on air, according to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA). The incident occurred following Global FM’s programme ‘choc des idées’, which that day focused on the sanitary situation in the District of Mamou. The programme’s guest was the District’s director of youth affairs, who was promoting a public sanitation programme initiated by local authorities mobilising young people to clean up the town every Saturday. One journalist commented during the programme that Mamou is a mess and that the media would be monitoring the progress of the initiative. A little later, Alpha Saliou Barry reportedly stormed into the radio station and attacked the three presenters while hurling insults and threats, disrupting the live programme. A jounalist’s telephone was damaged during the attack.

A police case was filed against Saliou Barry, who was subsequently accused of “insults, threats and destruction of property”. The case was later withdrawn by the management of Global FM in an amicable settlement, citing “interventions by religious, social and administrative actors” for its decision to settle. The Mayor of Mamou also issued a written apology on behalf of the councillor.

Journalist reporting on artisanal gold mining attacked, threatened

According to MFWA, on 13th August 2021, a group of artisanal gold miners attacked journalist Djanko Dansoko, who works for Radio Milo and as a freelance journalist for Futur Media, in the village of Tatakouro, in Siguiri Prefecture. Dansoko was there to report on the environmental impact of artisanal gold mining, which is prohibited. The journalist told MFWA that the group chased him and caught up with him at a fuel station after he managed to escape on his motorcycle. He was saved by the fuel station's manager, but was insulted and threatened by the group of miners. Although the journalist and the CEO of Radio Milo wanted to file a complaint on the attack, the matter was reportedly set to be settled amicably after involvement of the Imam and religious authorities of Doko district. 

Association

HRD released from prison

On 7th September 2021, Front National de la Défense de la Constitution (FNDC) activist and deputy coordinator of the pro-democracy movement Tournons la Page Oumar Sylla, also known as Foniké Menguè, was released from prison two days after the military coup on the instructions of the military junta. As reported previously on the Monitor, the activist was arrested on 29th September 2020 while he was preparing to participate in a FNDC protest and was sentenced, on 28th January 2021, to a prison sentence of 11 months on on charges of “criminal participation in a gathering likely to disturb public order”. On appeal, on 10th June 2021, the HRD was sentenced for “communication and dissemination of false information, violence and threat of death”, the same charges that Sylla faced during a previous arrest in April 2020 but were dismissed by a judge in August 2020.