Reporters Without Borders hails the enshrinement of the principle of press freedom in Guinea’s new constitution and the promulgation of two new laws by the country’s military leader, Gen. Sékouba Konaté, on 22 June, one decriminalising press offences and the other creating a new media regulatory body. The laws were published in the government gazette on 28 June.
“The new laws reorganising the media sector and protecting journalists from prison sentences are excellent news for Guinea’s media workers,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We welcome the fact that the transitional government, in coordination with journalists, has scrapped outmoded and repressive laws. The progress that these new laws represent will now undergo the test of implementation.”
Law L2010-002 CNT of 22 June on media freedom replaces Law 91-005 CTRN of 23 December 1991, which had been in effect until now. It provides for fines – in some cases, heavy fines – for journalists convicted of press offences, but not jail sentences. As well as print media, it applies to state and privately-owned broadcast media and online media, unlike the previous law, which was limited to the print media. It also defines defamation with much more precision and guarantees the freedom to create newspapers, while requiring that journalists run them.
Law L2010-003 CNT of 22 June creates the new media regulatory body, the Communication Supreme Authority (HAC). It will have 11 members, two more than the Communication National Council (CNC), which it replaces. Five of them will be named by media organisations and its chairperson will be elected by the members instead of being appointed by the country’s president, as was the case with the CNC.
The HAC will issue press cards in coordination with media organisations and will be consulted by the communication minister when people are selected to run the state media and when sanctions are imposed. The HAC will also coordinate with the communication and higher education ministries on the training of journalists.
The two laws were drafted in April and May by a transitional commission formed by seven journalists who consulted with media executives, educators and international experts. Approved in May, the laws are taking effect at time when Guinea is holding an historic presidential election.
The results are being awaited from the first round, which took place without any clashes on 27 June. Nonetheless, various candidates have challenged the process and the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) has been accused of fraud. As a result, there is concern that the electoral climate could degenerate.
“So far, the media have been free to cover the campaign and the polling without any problems,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But when candidates and supporters lose faith in the electoral system, tempers fray and journalists can be targeted by the various political camps and can be subjected to a great deal of pressure. We therefore urge the authorities to be very vigilant and to guarantee journalists’ safety when the results are announced.”