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“Turning the page” – report on hopes for media freedom in Niger and Guinea

“Turning the page” – report on hopes for media freedom in Niger and Guinea

Published on Thursday 28 July 2011.
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Reporters Without Borders is today releasing a report on media freedom in two countries where the political situation is still fragile after recent transitions – Guinea, where President Condé’s private home was attacked with heavy weapons on 19 July, and Niger, where soldiers have just been arrested on charges of trying to assassinate President Issoufou and topple his government.

Download the report “Turning the page, hopes for media freedom in Niger and Guinea” (PDF format - 3.5Mb).

The result of fact-finding visits to Conakry from 22 to 27 May and Niamey from 26 to 30 June, the report describes the recent transitions to democracy in these two countries as periods favourable for media freedom. It goes on to evaluate the current situation and the challenges ahead.

As regards Guinea, Reporters Without Borders deplores the fact that three media laws promulgated during the transition have still not been implemented. It also condemns the new government’s lack of interest in defending media freedom and expresses concern about the many repressive measures taken by the National Communication Council (CNC), a media regulatory body.

The latest of these was a directive on 26 July banning “all state and privately-owned news outlets” from mentioning the attack on President Condé’s home – an order that violates an article in the national constitution enshrining media freedom as a fundamental right. It is tantamount to introducing prior censorship. Reporters Without Borders joins Guinea’s media associations in calling on the CNC to rescind this order.

The situation is more positive in Niger. Media freedom violations are now rare and President Issoufou’s government has emphasized its desire to respect freedom of the media. The situation nonetheless continues to be fragile. This was seen when a journalist with the weekly Le Canard Déchaîné was briefly detained on 21-22 July although a law has decriminalized media offences.

Niger could become a regional model of good governance and respect for media freedom, but it must first consolidate what has been achieved.

In its conclusions, Reporters Without Borders urges Guinea’s President Condé to publicly undertake to guarantee media freedom and respect for media diversity, the government’s secretary-general to immediately submit the three media laws to the supreme court (so that it can verify their constitutionality and thereby allow them to be published in the official gazette), and the government to ensure that Radio-Télévision Guinéenne continues to be a public service media that reflects all aspects of Guinean society.

As regards Niger, Reporters Without Borders calls on senior officials to continue their efforts to promote media freedom and to reiterate their commitment to this, calls on the government to envisage measures likely to improve the economic environment for the media, and urges journalists not to forget the responsibilities of their mission to report the news.

Pictures : Guinean president Alpha Condé on the left (AFP/Pascal Guyot) and Mahamadou Issoufou, Niger’s president, on the right (AFP/Seydou)

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