Amnesty International appealed to Guinea’s government on Thursday to drop charges against 13 reporters who participated in peaceful demonstrations on October 16. The journalists had been taking part in protests to advocate for the easing of limitations placed on accessing various news websites within the country. Following the demonstrations, they were apprehended by police, charged with “unlawful assembly on a public highway” and appeared before the Court of First Instance in Kaloum (Conakry).
According to Amnesty International:
This latest crackdown on a rally bears witness to the regime’s implacable determination to enforce its decision of 13 May 2022 banning all rallies and to silence the individuals and media outlets that are denouncing the repeated attacks on the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
The government’s move to ban access to social media and news websites in May, in response to a march organized by the Forces Vives de Guinée, drew widespread criticism. The main focus of the Forces Vives de Guinée demonstrations was resistance to the ruling military junta in Guinea.
In May, the government put limitations on several social media services, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp. Notably, since mid-August, the popular news website Guinée Matin went completely offline for several months before being restored in late August. According to the website’s manager, there were no technical concerns to explain the outage. Nohou Baldé, Guinée Matin founder and Editor told Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “We have not published any particularly critical article or opinion piece of late. But everyone in Guinea knows that that Guinée Matin is a freely reported and independent newspaper. What scares me is that this could also happen to other news sites.”
In response to these allegations, Guinea’s Minister of Posts, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy Ousmane Gaoual Diallo denied any government participation in the incident. RSF was able to re-establish access to the news site by building a mirror site, allowing individuals to acquire critical information.
Amnesty International has urged the government to protect and defend freedom of expression within the country, as well as to restore the right to peaceful assembly and demonstrations. Press organizations such as AGUIPEL, URTELGUI, REMIGUI, and UPLG have also released a unified statement criticizing the arbitrary arrests and requesting the government to release the jailed journalists as soon as possible.