Two Guinean newspaper directors handed suspended prison terms

New York, August 14, 2007—A court in the Guinean capital of Conakry handed down suspended prison sentences on Monday to two private newspaper directors in connection with articles alleging corruption by a former government minister, according to local journalists.

Thiernodjo Diallo of La Vérité and Abdoul Azziz Camara of Libération were each sentenced to six-month prison terms, a total fine of 50 million Guinean francs (US$13,000), and ordered to publish the verdict, defense lawyer Christian Sow told CPJ. An appeal was filed this morning, according to Sow.

Former Public Works minister Bahna Sidibé filed charges after articles published in March and April accused him of embezzlement.

“Defamation matters should be settled in civil courts, in line with international standards,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the appeals court to overturn the criminal convictions of Thierno Diallo and Abdoul Azziz Camara and urge authorities to decriminalize defamation.”

Libel cases in Guinea remain criminal matters under the country’s harsh press code, which compels reporters to reveal sources if asked to by the state prosecutor’s office. 

In February, security forces loyal to President Lansana Conté, in power for 23 years, cracked down on the media after rising prices sparked peaceful national strikes. At least 137 people were killed, however, in a violent response by security forces, according to international news reports. In 2006, Transparency International ranked the bauxite-rich West African nation as the most corrupt country in Africa.