Guinean radio talk shows censored

New York, December 21, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a series of censorship measures imposed this month by media regulators in Guinea against three popular current affairs talk shows stemming from news commentary critical of officials. 

The state-run National Communications Council suspended on December 13 for five weeks the popular Sunday debate program “La Rondes des Journalistes” on private station Planète FM in the capital, Conakry, according to news reports and local journalists. The council also banned from the airwaves for a week the program’s host, Mandian Sidibé, who is also the director of the station. The suspensions were based on a defamation complaint filed by Fodé Idrissa Touré, more commonly known as “Briki Momo,”‘ a presidential adviser, over commentary aired during the December 2 edition of the program, according to the same sources.

In the December 2 program, panelists and callers discussed widely reported allegations that Touré’s bodyguards brutalized Aboubacar Sylla, a young opposition militant, in connection with a dispute over a plot of land, Sidibé told CPJ. Touré has publicly denied the allegations, according to news reports. Sidibé said he was summoned by the council and provided an audio recording of the program, but was not told which content was deemed defamatory.

Also on December 13, the council issued a formal warning to another station, Espace FM, over commentary aired during the December 12 edition of its popular daily news talk show “Les Grandes Gueules,” according to news reports. The council singled out the station’s coverage of deadly unrest in the southern town of Guéckédou but did not give more specifics. Three people died in clashes between opposition members demanding the resignation of Bakary Keita, a top government official, for alleged abuse of power, and supporters of Keita, according to news reports.

On Tuesday, the council summoned for questioning Planète FM’s Moussa Yero Bah, host of “Rien à Cacher,” another Sunday news talk show, according to news reports. Bah told CPJ the council members scrutinized for more than two hours an audio recording of her December 16 program, in which commentators criticized the suspensions imposed on the station. Council members told her they would issue a ruling, and Bah fears a suspension, she told CPJ.

“La Ronde des Journalistes,” “Rien à Cacher,” and “Les Grandes Gueules” feature in-depth discussions on current affairs between studio guests and callers, all of whom are journalists, local reporter Abdoulaye Bah told CPJ. The commentators are often critical of the government, he said.

“The state-run regulatory agency is violating the editorial freedom constitutionally guaranteed to all Guineans, including the journalists at Planète FM and Espace FM,” said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. “We call on the National Communications Council to reverse these censorship orders immediately.”

CPJ contacted Mamadou Wasco Keita, the secretary-general of the council, who said he would comment or send information on the cases by today, but did not follow up.