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Led by Gen. Sékouba Konaté, the National Transition Council (CNT) held the first free and transparent election in the country’s history in 2010. It was won by long-time opposition leader Alpha Condé. Is the new president a sincere democrat or a potential despot? What place does he assign the local media in the process of change that he has promised for Guinea? No one knows. Condé is perceived as distant and even contemptuous towards the national media. He has given no sign that would mitigate this reputation and reassure journalists.
Under President Lansana Conté (1984-2008), the privately-owned press won a hard-fought battle for the right to criticize the government and the country’s leader. Its free and diverse media include more than 30 newspapers, a similar number of privately-owned radio stations and two privately-owned TV stations. Radio has benefited from a recent reduction in restrictions on licences and is the most popular form of media. Phone-in programmes are particularly successful.
New media are developing fast. Guinea has many bloggers and more than 50 websites. The satirical print media, led by the emblematic Lynx, are now very influential. They publish criticism and caricature with a great deal of freedom that sometimes triggers reprisals from the targeted institutions or personalities.
The 2010 democratic transition generated a great deal of hope. The principle of media freedom was enshrined in the Guinean constitution and three new laws were promulgated by Gen. Konaté: one on press freedom that decriminalized media offences, one creating a new media regulatory body, the High Communication Authority (HAC), and one guaranteeing access to state-held information.
But none of these laws has so far been implemented since Condé was installed as president. And at the same time there has been a resumption of abuses against journalists, raids on news media and repressive measures. The gravest example was a ban on media references to an attack on the president’s private home which the National Communication Council (CNC) issued at the end of July 2011. Fortunately, it was lifted after 72 hours.
Finally, Radio Télévision Guinéenne needs to become a real public service media that is open to all political parties and reflects all aspects of Guinean society. Three journalists were relieved of their positions as RTG news presenters at the start of May 2011. The word in Conakry is that they were sanctioned for their supposed support for the Union of Guinea Democratic forces, the main opposition party, and that the decision to sideline them was taken at the highest government level.
Updated in August 2011
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