Government of Guinea Must Protect Freedom of Expression Rights as Guaranteed by the Country’s Constitution

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Press freedom and freedom of expression have come under severe attack in Guinea as security agents and state officials continue to brutalise journalists and anti-government protesters, according to a report jointly produced by the African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) and l’Association Guinéenne des éditeurs de la Presse Indépendante (AGEPI).

The Analytical Report on the Safety of Journalists in Guinea January 2017 to July 2019 pinpoints attacks such as physical assault, arbitrary arrest and detentions, judicial sanctions and even killing used to silence journalists and dissidents in Guinea. Sadly, these heinous violations are perpetrated with widespread impunity resulting in an increase in attacks on journalists. The rights to freedom of expression and access to information are guaranteed under Article two of the Guinean Constitution of 7 May 2010, as well as other international instruments adhered to by the Republic of Guinea as affirmed in the preamble to Guinea’s Constitution. Nevertheless, these rights are constantly violated by state officials including government officials, security agents and magistrates of judicial courts.

Aside the fact that the above-mentioned violations target journalists and dissidents directly, the government has also resorted to the use of measures such as banning of protests or demonstrations by opposition and civil society actors who are dissatisfied with policies or decisions taken by the government. Civil rights in Guinea have been under attack over the past years. It will be recalled that the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation July 23, 2018 passed a decree to ban protests in the country. The government’s intolerance for freedom of assembly rights is typified by the violent massacre by security agents of more than 150 protesters and rape of about 100 women during a peaceful demonstration in September 28, 2009.

To make the situation worse, Guinea’s Parliament on July 6, 2019, passed a law allowing gendarmes deployed for public order duties to use their discretion to shoot on sight without fear of prosecution. This law has serious implications for the exercise of freedom of assembly rights given the country’s record of violent repression of protests.

The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) is seriously concerned about this blatant attack on the rights of journalists, protesters and other dissidents in the country by the authorities in Guinea. The government of Guinea has a duty to protect the people of Guinea as provided for in its national constitution as well as other regional and international frameworks the country has ratified or signed.

In view of the above mentioned threats to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly rights in Guinea, AFEX and its member organisations urge the government to make commitments towards changing the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. To that end, we wish to make the following recommendations:

To the Government of:

  • Adopt urgent steps to abolish the recently adopted shoot on sight law which allows security agents to disperse protesters with live bullets
  • Sanitise the deteriorating human rights environment to improve the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly rights.
  • Lift the one year ban on the right to protests in Conakry and its surrounding provinces, in accordance with Article 10 of the Constitution of 7 May 2010
  • Ensure that perpetrators of attacks against journalists, opinion leaders, opposition politicians among others are sanctioned accordingly

Security Agencies:

  • Refrain from arbitrarily attacking journalists as well using excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrators
  • Investigate attacks against journalists and dissidents to a logical conclusion

Parliament:

  • Refrain from making any changes to the organic law L002/22/06/2010 that are inimical to the exercise of freedom of expression and press freedom in the Republic of Guinea;

Constitutional Court:

  • Refrain from using swamped up charges or sanctions to silence journalists and opinion leaders who are critical of the government.
  • To call on the Government to lift the one-year ban on demonstrations in the country
  • Urge the government to withdraw the recently adopted legislation that allows gendarmes to shoot protesters on sight in an attempt to control public order

Civil society actors:

  • Continue advocate for the promotion and defence of press freedom and freedom of expression in Guinea
  • Raise awareness about the provisions in the Guinean Constitution and other frameworks that obligate the government to uphold and defend freedom of the press and expression
  • Increase capacity building trainings for journalists, trade union leaders and civil society actors on the mechanisms to protect the safety of journalists and human rights activists
  • There is the need for increased collaboration among stakeholders in Guinea and beyond in order to eliminate this permanent threat to freedom of expression and press freedom.

Media Owners and Journalists:

  • Use your platforms to raise awareness about the important role journalists and other media professionals play in promoting democracy in Guinea
  • Work in solidarity with other media outlets to highlight the threats and attacks affecting journalism practice in the country and how to tackle these challenges
  • Train journalists and other media to be profession and ethical at all times
  • Initiate roundtable discussions on relations between magistrates, the media and the security services;

Kindly click here to access the full version of the Analytical Report on the Safety of Journalists in Guinea – Jan. 2017 to July 2019. 

AFEX is a continental network of freedom of expression organisations that work to promote and defend press freedom rights in Africa.