Reporters Without Borders voiced relief today on learning of the release of the FM Liberté presenter Mohamed Tondon Camara and technician David Camara who were arrested by presidential guards during a raid on 12 February, but pointed out that the station is still off the air after being ransacked during the raid and the press freedom climate currently prevailing in Guinea is very bad.
Two other stations, Familia FM and Radio Soleil, have stopped broadcasting after receiving threats. Radio Nostalgia is currently the only station still on the air in Conakry. Meanwhile, under a state of siege proclaimed on 12 February that is supposed to continue until 23 February, the authorities have decreed a 6 p.m. to noon curfew and have blocked Internet connections.
12.02.2007 Presidential guards raid Conakry radio station, arrest presenter and technician
Reporters Without Borders today condemned the closure of privately-owned radio FM Liberté yesterday by members of the presidential guard, who ransacked the Conakry-based station, roughed up employees and arrested a journalist and a technician.
“This absurd raid on a radio station is a very disturbing development and suggests the government is ready to use brute force to control news and information, but it will end up just aggravating the situation,” the press freedom organisation said. “If the government really wants to restore order, it should release the two FM Liberté employees and let the Guinean media work freely.”
A unit of presidential guard “Red Berets” burst into the studios of FM Liberté in the Conakry district of Kaloum at 11:40 a.m. while the “Matinée Plurielle” programme was being broadcast. They manhandled several employees and smashed equipment, cutting short the broadcast. Journalist and station host Mohamed Tondon Camara and technician David Camara were arrested and taken away, probably to local police headquarters. Equipment required to keep the station operating was confiscated.
No official explanation has so far been given for the raid. According to the station’s staff, the soldiers accused FM Liberté of “insulting the president” although it has a reputation for being moderate. The raid took place as the station was broadcasting interviews with people on the street, many of whom were criticising President Lansana Conté.
The security forces killed at least six demonstrators in Conakry suburbs yesterday as the country was paralysed by a resumption of protests. After an 18-day general strike in which at least 59 demonstrators were killed, President Conté had agreed on 27 January to cede part of his powers to a prime minister capable of tackling the country’s problems.
The appointment of Eugène Camara, a close presidential ally, to the post of prime minister was condemned as an “additional provocation” on 10 February by the trade unions that have been leading protests for more than a year. They demanded his immediate resignation and issued a call for the general strike to resume.