Guinean government censors private radio station
NEW YORK, August 31, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Authorities in Guinea closed a private radio station on Sunday, preventing the outlet from reporting on the next day's protests, according to news reports. Liberté FM has been targeted in the past, the reports said.
Authorities in Guinea's southeastern N'Zérékoré forested region summarily shut Liberté FM in the evening without providing an explanation to the station's staff, according to news reports. Local journalists told CPJ they believed the station had been closed to prevent it from broadcasting protests in Conakry, the capital, news reports said. Opposition leaders had called for protests on Monday to demand free and transparent parliamentary elections, which have been repeatedly postponed since 2010, the reports said. The journalists also said the outlet had been targeted because it had allowed opposition leaders to call for protests over the August 3 massacre by security forces of villagers in the Zogota district in the N'Zérékoré region.
The station was unable to broadcast live coverage of the protests, news reports said. It was allowed to resume broadcasting on Monday afternoon only after rights groups, press unions, and opposition leaders condemned the closure publicly, according to news reports.
Liberté FM's director, Alpha Saliou Diallo, told CPJ that the regional governor, Lance Condé(no relation to the president), had told him that the station had been shut down on the orders of the "highest authorities" in Conakry, the capital. But presidential spokesman Mohamed Lamin Soumah told CPJ that the decision to close Liberté FM had been made by the regional governor as a result of the station's coverage of the killings in Zogota. Soumah called the governor's decision an "abuse of authority," and said that it had prompted the government to reverse the order, news reports said.
Liberté FM has been targeted in the past. Diallo told CPJ that police had shut the outlet in 2010 during a live broadcast and detained two journalists for criticizing President Alpha Condé. In early 2007, military officers vandalized the station's offices in Conakry and arrested several journalists, news reports said.
"By censoring news outlets like Liberté FM and intimidating journalists, Guinean authorities continue to undercut democracy," said CPJ Africa Advocacy Mohamed Keita from New York. "President Alpha Condé's government should stop this trend and allow the press to do its job."
Several journalists were harassed and their vehicle damaged during Monday's protests in Conakry, local journalists told CPJ. Abdourahamane Diallo, a journalist for the local Espace FM, reported that the attacks occurred in the presence of police officers, who did nothing to help the journalists.
Soumah told CPJ that opposition supporters had attacked the journalists. "It was opposition militants who attacked the journalists because they were unhappy that security blocked the demonstration."