CPJ condemns ban of Guinean paper over editorial

New York, May 28, 2008—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a two-month ban summarily handed to a Guinean independent newspaper last week over an editorial that raised critical questions about the health of President Lansana Conté’s second wife.

The state-run National Communications Council decided on the ban, which is the third suspension of a newspaper in Guinea this year, after private weeklies La Vérité and L’Observateur, according to CPJ research.

“The ban on La Croisade should be lifted immediately,” said CPJ’s Africa Program Coordinator, Tom Rhodes. “The media in Guinea has a right to report on political and public figures.”

The ruling was linked to an editorial that discussed widely circulated rumors about whether the president’s wife, Kadiatou Seth Conté, was mentally ill and had been in France for medical care.

The state-run National Communications Council, in a ruling issued on May 19, accused La Croisade, a weekly based in the capital, Conakry, of “harming the honor and esteem of physical and moral persons” and violating privacy, according to news reports and local journalists. The ruling barred the paper’s managing editor, Fadjimba Sayon Keita, from practicing journalism during the two-month suspension. Keita told CPJ this week that the Council did not summon him for a hearing prior to issuing the ruling. The paper risks losing half its annual government subsidy as a result of the suspension under rules set by the council last month, according to local journalists.

Conté did not publicly react to the allegations, which were exclusively reported by La Croisade, according to local journalists. Several journalists and local sources told CPJ that the first lady returned to Guinea about two weeks ago unannounced after several months in France, but has not been seen in public since.

It was not the first time La Croisade was suspended over its critical coverage of the Guinean presidency, according to CPJ research. In a similar 2006 ruling , the council accused the paperof publishing false information and of “attacking the honor of a deceased person” over a story raising critical questions about the death of a presidential driver.