Guinea to allow private radio stations?
Surprising news from Guinea. The country's new prime minister, Cellou Dalien Diallo, has proposed lifting a ban on private radio stations. This is an important step in a country where a majority of the citizens are illiterate and newspapers are available only in bigger cities.
The regime of Gen. Lansana Conté has staunchly resisted efforts to allow local private broadcasters, perhaps mindful of the role private radio stations played in preventing electoral fraud in neighboring Senegal's 2000 general elections (which saw the party that had ruled since independence evicted).
International donors, including the European Union (EU), have been withholding big aid packages to Guinea pending a move towards greater democracy, better governance and liberalisation of the media, reports IRIN. “The situation has become so dire in Guinea that the government has decided this is a lesser evil,” Mike McGovern, the West Africa director of the Brussels-based think-tank, International Crisis Group (ICG) told IRIN. “It’s a good step in the right direction,” he added.
The country has faced a year of social unrest and deteroriating conditions due to the crumbling economy and failure of the sick Gen. Conté to do much of anything. Discontent among Guinea's eight million people is on the rise. Soaring food prices, rising electricity bills and unpaid state salaries have sent former railway workers, students, miners and angry residents out onto the streets in the last few months.
In the worst of the protests, hungry and angry citizens attacked rice trucks in the capital, Conakry, in July. A fast depreciating Guinean franc meant imported rice was selling for US$ 30 per 50 kg bag -- more than many Guineans earn in a month.