- Following the controversial December elections in Guinea, several independent journalists in the country have come under a spate of harassment and intimidation for stories and comments made in connection with the elections.
The Ghana-based Media Foundation of West Africa (MFWA) today stated its concern over a growing number of attacks on journalists and the press at large following the 21 December presidential polls in Guinea. The poll assured President Lansana Conté his re-election under conditions that observers would not call neither free nor fair.
According to MFWA's sources in Guinea, on 26 December, and again, on 30 December 2003, Sanou Kerfalla Cissé and Talibé Diallo, managing editor and deputy editor-in-chief respectively, of the weekly 'Le Diplomate' newspaper, as well as Jean Marie Morgan, a freelance journalist, were summoned by the police special branch (the DST) and interrogated for several hours.
The journalists were specifically quizzed about two separate articles under the headlines "Matam - The dice are loaded" and "Kaloum - Elections devalued", and published in the Issue No. 65 of the 23 December edition of the 'Le Diplomate'.
The stories denounced what were described as "widespread election malpractices." The publications were also accompanied by picture illustrations of underage children stuffing ballot boxes and women who had voted more than once.
After several hours of interrogation, Commissioner Mamadou Camara, Chief of Operation of the DST, had ordered the journalists to return and remain at their work places and wait for the police special branch to decide their fate.
Then, on 27 and 29 December, the managing editor of the bi-monthly 'Le Populaire' was summoned by the police special branch and severely lampooned over an article entitled, "Wade preparing Conte’s exile", published in the Issue No. 37 of the 25 December edition of the paper.
The article alleged that the Senegalese President, Abdoulaye Wade, had offered his Guinean counterpart, President Lasana Conté, exile in Dakar. Police, who interrogated Mr Diallo, accused him of jeopardising the internal security of the state.
- The summons of journalists by the police are a flagrant infringement of the Guinean constitution, criticises Prof Kwame Karikari, Executive Director of MFWA. The Guinean constitution provides for the National Communications Council as the only media regulatory body mandated to summon and question media practitioners who may be in breach of the journalists' professional code of ethics.
Mr Karikari on behalf of MFWA has sent an appeal to the government of President Conté, asking him to "demonstrate a greater respect for the rule of law and refrain from the arbitrary, illegal arrests and intimidation of independent journalists in the country."
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