- Guinean Security Minister Moussa Sampil has confiscated all 950 copies of the weekly newspaper 'Le Petit Matin' because of an article ridiculing his "mistakes". State security police searched the streets of Conakry for copies of the newspaper to prevent it from reaching readers. Now, the Minister is being billed for the 950 copies.
Acting on Minister Sampil's orders, state security police scoured the streets of Conakry on the morning of 23 September, hunting down the 950 copies of 'Le Petit Matin''s latest issue. All copies still on sale were seized from Conakry street vendors.
As the police officers did not know where the newspaper's offices were located, the police went the same day to the National Council for Communication (Conseil national de la Communication, CNC) and demanded the address of several Guinean newspapers. CNC staff however refused to provide this information.
In an attempt to justify his move, Minister Sampil told the CNC that 'Le Petit Matin' was illegal. According to information gathered by the Paris-based group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), the president of the Guinean Association of Independent Press Editors then telephoned the Conakry State Prosecutor, who said he was unaware of any decision declaring the weekly illegal.
The independent editors resolved to take action on behalf of 'Le Petit Matin'. Concluding that Minister Sampil's seizure of the 950 copies amounted to "buying them on credit," they sent him a bill on 1 October. The Guinean editors also challenged him at a seminar on transparency the same day in Conakry, in which he and four government colleagues took part. Instead of responding to the journalists' questions, Mr Sampil walked out.
The seizure of the weekly newspaper's last edition has produced a sharp cut in revenues. 'Le Petit Matin' has until now been unable to raise the funds needed to publish any further issues. No date has been set for the next one.
RSF yesterday strongly criticised the Guinean Security Minister for his action against the newspaper. "We not only protest the security minister's arbitrary decision, but also the extremes to which he has gone to silence 'Le Petit Matin'," the group said. "If he insists on using the police as auxiliaries for his wounded pride, he will continue to face legitimate criticism from independent journalists and protests from our organisation."
RSF added, "We call for 'Le Petit Matin' to be allowed to resume publishing normally and for it to be compensated for the financial losses resulting from the seizure of the 23 September issue."
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