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Guinea-Bissau2 March 2009

Armed forces briefly silence broadcast media after chief of staff and president murdered

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Guinea-Bissau’s broadcast media were allowed to resume operating shortly after midday today after being ordered off the air last night following the murder of the armed forces chief of staff, which was followed in turn early today by the murder of President Joao Bernardo “Nino” Vieira.

“Amid the current instability, we urge all of Guinea-Bissau’s actors, especially the armed forces, to respect press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “More than ever, the circumstances require that journalists be protected and that their ability to work freely be guaranteed.”

At around 9 p.m. yesterday, about an hour after the bomb attack at the headquarters of the armed forces that killed the chief of staff, Gen. Tagmé Na Waié, the army ordered the capital’s privately-owned radio stations and the national television station to stop broadcasting for “security reasons.”

This morning, the local radio and TV stations broadcast only music, while the international media broadcasts continued to be received. The resumption of normal broadcasting took place at about 1 p.m. today.

In reprisal for yesterday evening’s attack on the armed forces headquarters, soldiers loyal to the slain chief of staff went to President Vieira’s private home in the early hours of this morning and killed him as he was trying to flee.

In a November 2007 report entitled “Cocaine and coups haunt gagged nation” about the precarious situation of Guinea-Bissau’s journalists, Reporters Without Borders asked the armed forces to follow the law in the event of any conflict with the media and to publicly recognise the importance of a vigorous, free and well-informed press for the success of the country’s reconstruction. The military authorities never acted on this request.

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