August 10, 2000
Mr. Emil Tompapa
President, Conseil National de la Communication (CNC)
Place Boule-Binet, près RTG
VIA FAX: +220.127.116.11
Dear Mr. Tompapa:
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) calls on Guinea's National Communications Council (CNC) to immediately and unconditionally reinstate the press credentials of the Conakry-based foreign correspondents Mouctar Bah (Agence France-Press), Ben Daouda Sylla (Africa No. 1), and Amadou Diallo (BBC).
On July 28, the CNC announced that the accreditation of Bah, Sylla, and Diallo had been suspended for two months, beginning August 1. In its announcement, the CNC accused the three journalists of pursuing a "hidden agenda" and distributing "tendentious and malevolent information on Guinea's social and political situation."
The CNC reportedly made this announcement on July 28, a week before the resumption of the trial of opposition leader Alpha Condé on charges of "endangering the state." Local and international media and human rights groups have repeatedly denounced this trial on both procedural and substantive legal grounds.
As an organization of journalists committed to promoting press freedom worldwide, CPJ believes that the CNC ruling is part of a systematic campaign to stifle critical voices in Guinea and, in particular, to block international coverage of the Condé trial. This blatant act of censorship is the most recent in a disturbing pattern of attacks on independent journalism in Guinea.
On around June 25, according to CPJ's local sources, the State Prosecutor's Office in Conakry issued an arrest warrant against journalist Alphadio Modesto Ayibatin after he published a critical article about the Guinean government's economic policies in the Canadian daily Le Droit. Ayibatin, who wrote this article during a recent professional visit to Canada, was served with a court summons for "discrediting and defaming the government" upon his return to Guinea in late June. Fearing imprisonment, the journalist fled the country.
On March 28, the CNC suspended the private weeklies L'Oeil and Le Soleil for one month, from March 31 to April 30. This decision followed complaints lodged by several private businessmen whose alleged malfeasance had been reported in several issues of the two papers.
On April 7, Abou Sankara, the editor-in-chief of Le Soleil, was arrested at his newspaper's offices in Conakry. Sankara is accused of having launched the new newspaper Le Soleil Enchâiné during the one-month suspension of Le Soleil, in violation of the Press Code. The CNC seized all copies of Le Soleil Enchâiné's first edition and banned it from future circulation.
While Guinea's 1991 press laws are among Africa's most repressive, the CNC was ostensibly created to "protect the rights of citizens to access information, prevent an abusive control of state media by the government, and hamper manipulation of public opinion by means of the media," according to Article 2 of its charter. We call on the CNC to fulfill its mandate by ensuring that the arrest warrant against Alphadio Modesto Ayibatin is withdrawn and that the press credentials of Mouctar Bah, Ben Daouda Sylla, and Amadou Diallo are unconditionally restored.
Ann K. Cooper