Dakar, December 15, 2023—Guinean authorities should immediately end broadcasting blocks on at least four radio and television outlets and restore access to all social media and online communication platforms, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Friday.
On December 6, the High Authority of Communication (HAC), Guinea’s media regulator, ordered Canal+, a French distributor in Guinea, to suspend radio and TV content by privately owned broadcaster Djoma, according to a copy of the order shared with CPJ by Kalil Oularé, manager of the Djoma Média press group, and news reports.
Three days later, on December 9, the regulator ordered Canal+ to suspend radio and TV content by two other privately owned broadcasters, Evasion and Espace, according to Nfaly Guilavogui, Evasion deputy managing director, who spoke to CPJ, and a press release by Canal+. The regulator’s December 9 order cited “security imperatives” following a referral from “competent state services,” but did not elaborate.
Then, on December 12, Chinese television distributor StarTimes removed Djoma, Espace, and Evasion from its offerings “by decision of the competent authorities for reasons of national security,” according to StarTimes’ press release on the matter and Guilavogui. The press release did not state which authority made the decision.
The formal suspension orders occurred after radio broadcasts of Espace, Evasion, Djoma, and privately owned Fim were already blocked. These broadcasts have been blocked since November 24, according to Djoma news director Aboubacar Condé, Fim editor Sekou Bah, and Guilavogui.
“Guinean authorities must immediately allow broadcasts by Fim, Espace, Evasion, and Djoma to return on air though all available channels, and restore access to all social media and online communication networks in the country,” said Muthoki Mumo, CPJ’s sub-Saharan Africa representative, in Nairobi. “The blocks placed on radio, TV, and online media across Guinea directly threaten freedom of expression and the public’s right to access information.”
Bah and Oularé told CPJ that they could not point to specific reports that might have triggered the blocks and suspensions, but they believed their generally critical coverage of authorities played a role. “This is a programmed extinction of a medium known for its editorial line” and its critical coverage, including of injustices and human rights violations, Bah said.
Earlier in November, Fim’s radio broadcast was blocked when it was covering an incident in which four former military officials, on trial for allegedly suppressing a 2009 demonstration, escaped from prison. Espace, Evasion, and Djoma also covered the escape.
“The major event that [they covered which] could have a link with their blocking is the prison break, but the root of the problem is that these media, which have the largest audience in the country, are being blamed for their [critical] editorial line,” Sekou Jamal Pendessa, secretary general of the Syndicate of Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG), a local trade group, told CPJ. Guilavogui told CPJ that Evasion’s TV programming is accessible via satellite, but that the vast majority of its audience relies on distribution by Canal+.
In addition to the broadcaster blocks, access to several online social media and communication platforms, including Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter, has been blocked in Guinea since November 24, according to analysis by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a non-profit internet censorship tracker. Guilavogui and Nouhou Baldé, director of privately owned news site Guinée Matin, also confirmed the blocks, with Baldé telling CPJ that he was only able to access the platforms via a virtual private network.
Baldé told CPJ that the social media blocks hindered readers’ access to the news. “We distribute all the content on social networks and if internet users do not have access to it, this means that our articles are currently read very little,” Baldé told CPJ.
In a separate incident, on December 11, Guinea’s Post and Telecommunications Agency, which manages radio frequencies in the country, issued a decision to close Ndimba Radio within three months over its alleged failure to pay license fees, which its director Ibrahima Sory Traoré denies, according to news reports.
Traoré told CPJ the closure was retribution for “the media’s non-complacent coverage of the government.”
Moussa Moïse Sylla, director of communications for the Guinean presidency, declined CPJ’s request for comment, stating he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
CPJ called HAC President Boubacar Yacine Diallo, government spokesman Ousmane Gaoual Diallo, and Guinea’s Post and Telecommunications Agency, but received no response.