Dakar, October 26, 2023—Guinean authorities must identify and hold accountable those officers responsible for arresting and assaulting journalists during an October 16 demonstration calling for authorities to lift restrictions on the privately owned news website Guinée Matin, and drop all legal proceedings against the journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On October 16, Guinean police and gendarmerie officers insulted, beat with batons, kicked, and shot tear gas at reporters Mariam Sall, with privately owned broadcaster Espace TV; Mariama Bhoye Barry, with privately owned broadcaster Cavi TV; and Amadou Lama Diallo, with Guinée Matin, as they covered a demonstration in the capital, Conakry, according to the three journalists who spoke with CPJ and a video filmed by Barry and published by Guinée Matin.
The demonstration was organized by the Syndicate of Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG) to voice concern over the blocking of access to the Guinée Matin website in Guinea since August 15. The website has remained available outside the country.
Police arrested Sall, Barry, Diallo, and 10 journalists participating in the protest and detained them at Conakry’s Kaloum central police station before transferring them to a local court where they were charged with “criminal participation in a prohibited gathering on the public highway” and were released, according to Barry and news reports. Their next court date has not been set.
“Guinean authorities should allow journalists to stand up for their rights and against censorship, and ensure reporting on public demonstrations does not carry the risk of attack and arrest,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Authorities should drop the legal proceedings against journalists covering the October 16 demonstration by their colleagues calling for the unblocking of the Guinée Matin news website.”
Ibrahima Foulamory Bah, a reporter for the online media outlet Le Courrier de Conakry, who was participating in the demonstration, told CPJ that he stepped in to protect Barry from the officers and was also hit in the neck by their batons, cracking a bone in his neck.
Diallo accompanied Bah, Sall, and Barry to a private clinic in Conakry, where Barry was treated for wounds to his hand and Sall for injuries to the neck. Bah was ordered to refrain from work for a month due to his neck injury.
The 10 journalists who participated in the protest and were briefly detained and charged were:
- Sékou Jamal Pendessa, secretary general of the SPPG.
- Thierno Baïlo Diallo, a reporter with privately owned website Le Mondemédias
- Nyima Aïssata Kébé, a reporter with privately owned website Infochrono
- Aminata Sylla, a reporter with privately owned online broadcaster Unique 360 TV
- Mamady Bérété, a Unique 360 TV reporter
- Abdoulaye Cissé, a reporter with privately owned website Le Renifleur
- Lamine Kaba, an Espace TV reporter
- Fodé Camara, a reporter with privately owned online broadcaster Ouestvision TV
- Djibril Camara, a reporter with privately owned radio station Nostalgie Guinée
Guinée Matin remained inaccessible within the country as of October 26, Nouhou Baldé, the outlet’s director, told CPJ.
Azoka Bah, a spokesperson for the Guinean Ministry of Communication, told CPJ that the government was not responsible for the blocking of Guinée Matin’s website. CPJ’s calls to a number for Guinea’s Ministry of Post, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy and to Bachir Diallo, Minister of Public Security and Civil Protection, rang unanswered.
Separately, Inquisiteur, another local news website that had been inaccessible since September 1, was brought back online on October 11 after the resolution of an ownership dispute, according to its administrator Mamadou Babila Keita and media reports.
A transitional military government took control of Guinea in a coup that overthrew elected President Alpha Condé on September 5, 2021.