Saturday 16 December 2017

Guinea radio stations fall silent to protest media crackdown

Guinea radio stations fall silent to protest media crackdown
(AFP (eng) 11/28/17)

More than 40 radio stations in Guinea suspended programming for 24 hours in protest at the shutdown of a regional broadcaster for attempting to interview the leader of a teachers' strike.

The silent act of solidarity began at 12 pm (1200 GMT) on Tuesday following three hours of broadcasts earlier in the day devoted to the topic of press freedom.

The URTELGUI media union told members it expected "strict respect" of the blackout in a statement late Monday, while presenting excuses to the Guinean people for any "inconvenience".

Radio is the primary source of news in the West African nation, where the majority of the population is illiterate.

The protest relates to the temporary shutdown of the BTA FM radio station in Guinea's second city, Labe, where broadcasting was interrupted by the authorities on Monday morning just as an interview began with key teachers' union official Aboubacar Soumah.

Several teachers have been arrested and two teenage protesters killed since the walkout was called on November 13 over salary increases, with President Alpha Conde taking a hard line this weekend on media he described as aiding an "illegal" strike movement, adding "accomplices" would be "shut down".

Guinea's media watchdog reminded officials on Monday it had the sole authority to suspend broadcasts from radio stations, but warned journalists not to "endanger national unity or create problems in society."

Meanwhile, there was a marked increase in attendance by teachers and pupils at schools on Tuesday in the capital, the education ministry said in a statement, despite the continued absence of many children whose families fear a repeat of violent street battles with police.

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