Despite repeated urging from various foreign governments and the National Council for Communication (CNC), Guinea still did not have any privately-owned radio or TV station. Moreover, the state-owned broadcasters remained under the government’s strict control. The different political tendencies did not have equal access and whenever an election approached, the bias increased and the state-owned radio and television just carried demonstrations of support for President Lansana Conté, together with the ruling party’s spots and extensive coverage of its campaign.
On the other hand, the authorities tried to curb arbitrary practices in the punishment of press offences. Justice minister Abou Camara announced in August 2002 that the judicial police were henceforth banned from arresting journalists for press offences and that errant journalists would have to be cited before a court. The minister also insisted on being notified whenever a journalist was given a prison sentence in order to verify that there was due process.
A journalist imprisoned
Boubacar Yacine Diallo, a journalist with the independent bimonthly L’Enquêteur, was detained on 19 December and taken to the headquarters of the Conakry gendarmerie for reporting that the national inspector of the armed forces, Col. Mamadou Baldé, had resigned. Col. Baldé denied the report and blamed it on his detractors. Diallo was released provisionally on 3 January 2003.
Two journalists arrested
Alcoumba Diallo, founder and editor of the weekly L’Aurore, was arrested on 29 January and taken to the Kaloum gendarmerie barracks where he was interrogated by presidential aide-de-camp Maj. Soumah about a report that some of the navy’s vessels belonged to President Conté’s family. He was released on 1 February and was not charged.
Funmi Olowofoyeku, a Nigerian reporter working for Deutsche Welle, was arrested in the central town of Farannah on 3 August as she was returning from Liberia, where she had been covering the war since the start of June. She was released the next morning after being questioned about her presence in Guinea and her various activities. Olowofoyeku, who speaks French and English, complained that officials use local languages much of the time just to obstruct journalists from other African countries.
Pressure and obstruction
Several journalists from the privately-owned press were expelled from Gbessia airport on 17 May 2002 as they were waiting to cover the arrival in Guinea of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamed Ben Khalifa al-Thani. A journalist who was there said it was a presidential cameraman who asked the police to eject the privately-owned media reporters. The state-owned media were able to stay at the airport, and to cover the emir’s visit during the following days.
Copies of many local publications - Le Lynx, La Lance, L’il du Peuple, L’Indépendant, L’Observateur, La Nouvelle Tribune - and international news weeklies were confiscated from stands on the streets of Conakry on 1 August by police of the Rapid Intervention and Security Squad (CMIS) and some vendors were taken to CMIS headquarters. Guinean journalists said the seizures appeared to have been prompted by the publication of a US government release that was very critical of the results of the legislative elections of 30 June, which the local press also described as an "electoral farce."
The authorities censored the Paris-based pan-African weekly Jeune Afrique - L’Intelligent at the start of September. Copies of issue 2173 of 2-8 September were seized on the orders of the ministry of territorial administration because it contained a long profile of President Conté which said he had a "military view" of how to govern.
The CNC shut down the weekly L’il du Peuple for three months on 2 December without giving any explanation. Three other privately-owned newspapers were suspended by the CNC on 10 December. La Croisade was closed for two months because of an article about the liquidation of the national airline Air Guinée and how 200 employees were now without jobs. Le Défi was also closed for two months, for article entitled: "The 2003 presidential election: why Gen. Conté must go." Le Diplomate was closed for three months without explanation.
Abdoulaye Condé, editor of La Nouvelle Tribune, was summoned for questioning on 18 December by President Conté’s aide-de-camp because of a report entitled "Who killed Conté?" referring to a visit by the president to Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, during which he fell ill. Condé was released the same day and was not charged.