Reporters Without Borders today criticised Guinean security minister Moussa Sampil for confiscating of all 950 copies of the weekly Le Petit Matin on 23 September because of article ridiculing his "mistakes", and for then trying to justify the seizure by falsely claiming the newspaper was illegal.
"We not only protest against the security minister’s arbitrary decision but also the extremes to which he has gone to silence Le Petit Matin", the organisation said. "If he insists on using the police as auxiliaries for his wounded pride, he will continue to face legitimate criticism from independent journalists and protests from our organisation."
Reporters Without Borders added: "We call for Le Petit Matin to be allowed to resume publishing normally and for it to be compensated for the financial losses resulting from the seizure of the 23 September issue."
Acting on Sampil’s orders, state security police scoured the streets of Conakry on the morning of 23 September, hunting down the 950 copies of Le Petit Matin’s issue No. 4. All copies still on sale were seized. As they did not know where the newspaper’s offices are located, the police went the same day to the National Council for Communication (CNC) and demanded the address of several Guinean newspapers. CNC staff refused.
In an attempt to justify his move, Sampil told the CNC that Le Petit Matin was illegal. Reporters Without Borders learned that the president of the Guinean Association of Independent Press Editors reacted by telephoning the Conakry state prosecutor, who told him he was unaware of any decision declaring the weekly illegal.
The independent editors resolved to take action. Concluding that, by seizing the 950 copies, Sampil had "bought them on credit", they sent him a bill on 1 October. They also challenged him at a seminar on transparency the same day in Conakry in which he and four government colleagues took part. Instead of responding to the journalists’ questions, Sampil walked out.
Le Petit Matin has meanwhile been unable to raise the funds needed to bring out any subsequent issues. No date has been set for the next one.