Thursday, March 10, 2005

The problems of the independent press in Guinea

This piece (in French) from Guineenews fears for the future of the independent press in Guinea. The primary cause cited is collapse fo the country's currency. It now takes over 2800 Guinean Francs (FG) to buy an American dollar; ten years ago, it only took around 1000. Guineenews notes that the higher cost of paper, ink and other materials gives Guinean newspapers the highest price in the subregion and, accordingly, the lowest circulation. Even the state paper Horoya, the country's only daily, disappears at times for financial reasons.

Though on the political side, defenders of the press were happy to see the demise of Moussa Sampil, the much-loathed security minister who lost his post on Tuesday in a cabinet reshuffle.

Sampil became the latest minister to pique the ire of the press and the opposition when he ordered the arrest of many people after an alleged attempt to kill the [Guinean head of state Gen. Lansana Conté] in January. These included a lawyer and a journalist, prompting both groups to campaign against him, noted the BBC. A knowledgeable source at the presidency told our correspondent that the continuing boycott by lawyers of court sessions, and the projection by the local press of Mr Sampil as the government's "black sheep", hastened his departure.

"Sampil is gone. It is good for press freedom, freedom of expression and human rights in this country," raved one journalist, who perhaps should know better. The Conté regime has has long adopted a Jeckyll-and-Hyde approach to the independent press, alternatively tolerating and harassing journalists. Conté has replaced despises security ministers before and this has never changed the fundamental outlook of the regime.

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