Friday, October 9, 2009

Journalists in Guinea in Danger

(RSF/IFEX) - Soldiers in Conakry have been addressing journalists in a very threatening manner, with such comments as "If you go out the door, I'll cut your tongue out," "The next time things happen, we'll know where to find you" and "We know you, we'll make you pay."

Ten days after army Red Berets dispersed an opposition protest with a great deal of bloodshed in Conakry on 28 September 2009, Reporters Without Borders warns that the climate for the press has become extremely menacing and appeals to mediators to try to protect journalists.

"A resolution of the Guinean crisis requires protecting not just civilians in general but also journalists in particular, as they are the target of military abuses," Reporters Without Borders said. "And if Guinea's military leader, Capt. Dadis Camara, claims to be still governing the country, he must make his troops see reason."

The staff of one privately-owned radio station, some of whom have received explicit threats from soldiers close to Camara, are currently barricaded inside the station and are producing just minimum programming.

Several journalists with other news media, whom Reporters Without Borders prefers not to identify for obvious security reasons, have been accused of "giving information to foreigners" and have received death threats by telephone. Some journalists are withholding their by-lines from their reports, while others have fled their homes.

When Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré flew to Conakry on 5 October as a would-be mediator in the crisis, journalists from privately-owned media were denied access to the airport area where visiting dignitaries arrive. Some of the journalists were roughed up in front of the minister in charge of presidential security. Only state media journalists and the Burkina Faso media were admitted.

In Bellevue, where the meetings with President Compaoré took place, Red Berets and the bodyguards of territorial administration minister Frédéric Kolié took aim at the journalists present, promising to go after them "as soon as the next riots break out." "Everyone will talk about it," the Red Berets said. Even the state TV was accused of "complicity" with the protesters for failing to show a ransacked police station.

Reporters Without Borders interviewed Mouctar Bah, the Conakry correspondent of Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale, after the 28 September bloodshed in Conakry. He described how he and BBC correspondent Amadou Diallo were threatened and roughed up by soldiers.

Many journalists were beaten and injured on 28 September, some sustained stab wounds and some were detained for several hours. At the same time, their equipment was systematically stolen or smashed. All of the country's journalists – print media, radio, TV and website reporters – are now threatened.

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