On June 30, almost three-quarters of voters cast ballots in parliamentary elections, which landed the ruling Unity and Progress Party 85 out of the National Assembly’s 114 seats and further strengthened President Lassana Conté’s long-standing hold on power. The country’s usually feisty opposition leaders refrained from blaming their losses on voter manipulation, but some journalists alleged that the ruling party benefited from popular fears that the armed conflict in neighboring Liberia could spread to Guinea.
Guinean leaders and citizens appeared to show greater tolerance for press criticism in 2002 compared with previous years. However, on January 29, a presidential aide-de-camp interrogated Alcoumba Diallo, publisher of the private weekly L’Aurore, in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade the journalist to reveal his sources for an article alleging that the president’s family owns some of the navy’s ships.
Guinea’s government and press corps joined forces to warn a wary population about the need to strengthen national security in the face of rebel insurgencies that continue to destabilize the West African region. In August, improved government-media relations moved Justice Minister Abou Camara to instruct police to stop arresting journalists for their work. At the same time, the minister said journalists should “voluntarily” respond to court summonses for press offenses. Camara said his goal was to “establish a partnership between the press and the Ministry of Justice.”
In early September, while rebel attacks on Liberian towns intensified, Guinean soldiers harassed Nigerian radio reporter Funmi Olowofoyeku after she attempted to cross the border without a military escort. Soldiers held her equipment for several hours and then kept her from crossing into Liberia.
Boubacar Yacine Diallo, L’Enquêteur