Once again, the state-owned media focused attention on themselves by attacking everyone who criticised the regime. In May 2001 the public-sector radio and television challenged the French minister of cooperation for mentioning the "isolation" of the country: "Does Charles Josselin not know that Guinea is not conquered territory?" hurled one of them. In November, in the run-up to the referendum in which President Lansana Conté was given a new mandate, the state radio station broadcast numerous programmes praising the head of state. The opposition only rarely had access to state media in 2001. A few days after the referendum several journalists with state television received a letter from the communication minister criticising them for their "poor reporting". According to the authorities, the reporters did not show enough images of "jubilation among the people".
During the year two journalists were sentenced to jail for criticising the government. Yet the same authorities had announced their intention to grant 300 million Guinean francs (roughly 228,000 euros) to the private-sector press to enable it "to play its part in furthering democracy in Guinea".
Three journalists jailed
The Conakry court of first instance sentenced Aboubacar Sakho, managing editor of the weekly Le Nouvel Observateur, on 14 February 2001 to ten months’ imprisonment and a fine of one million Guinean francs (590 euros). He had been charged for publishing an article criticising the justice minister’s decision to dismiss certain magistrates. The journalist was detained in Conakry central prison for one month before being released on orders from the authorities. Aboubacar Sakho had lodged a complaint against the justice minister on 25 January for "public death threats". Mandian Sibié, correspondent for L’Indépendant in the northern town of Fria was arrested on 27 February and detained for several days in Conakry central prison. He was accused of being the main source of information in Aboubacar Sakho’s article.
The Conakry anti-gang police arrested Tibou Camara, managing editor of the privately-owned L’Observateur, on 8 May outside the newspaper’s offices. Several witnesses, including the journalist’s colleagues, said he was hit by the police when they arrested him. He had been sentenced on 24 April 2001 to six months in jail and a one million Guinean franc (590 euro) fine for "libel". The Conakry court of first instance had sentenced the managing editor and five other journalists from L’Observateur following a complaint by Malick Sankhon, general secretary for the ministry of tourism. The government official had sued the weekly for an article accusing him of wanting to abduct Tibou Camara. The journalist was released after a few days in detention.
Pressure and obstruction
On 27 July 2001 the National Communication Council (CNC), suspended the newspaper L’Aurore for three months. The CNC considered that it had been defamed and insulted by an article in L’Aurore in which the president of the CNC ethics commission had been described as "a man with a guilty conscience". The press card of the newspaper’s managing editor was withdrawn for three months.