News / Africa

Focus on Guinea’s Media as Legislative Poll Nears

FILE - Opposition protestors clash with police in Conakry, Guinea, May 2013.
FILE - Opposition protestors clash with police in Conakry, Guinea, May 2013.
Nancy Palus
In the Guinean capital, Conakry, journalists and civil society leaders have been discussing the role of the media in fostering stability during upcoming legislative polls. Relatively new to democratic elections, the West African country has seen violent clashes stemming from political rivalries, and the slightest rumor or partisan report can spark trouble.

The political divide in Conakry is such that a friendly debate on current affairs among university-educated young men can turn quite heated. This discussion, over traditional sweet tea, had its rowdy moments. But it all ended with laughs and handshakes.

Friendly debate is not always the norm in Conakry, where deep government-opposition rivalry, coupled with dire living conditions, has time and again prompted violence in the streets.

Most recently, in May, the opposition staged protests - deeply suspicious of the government's intentions in the upcoming parliamentary election. They resulted in two days of deadly clashes.

Guineans say the media - especially in the run-up to the September 24 legislative poll - has a pivotal role in ensuring that a tense climate does not degenerate into chaos. But is a tense climate reason to restrain coverage? Local journalists walk a fine line.

In 2010, Guinea entered a political transition with its first-ever open and transparent presidential election. The change opened the way for greater press freedom, but repression is still a problem. The global press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders says authorities have often pointed to the country’s social “fragility” as a pretext for stifling the media. Some Guineans say some local reporters, though, indeed exploit social and ethnic divisions, and must take care not to do so.

Media reports

"I listen to certain radio broadcasts, I’m terrified. I don’t want to go out for fear of being attacked," said Ibrahima Kalil Condé, who works for a logistics firm in Conakry. "Some broadcasts sow terror and hatred among Guineans, and this is what journalists absolutely must avoid."

Condé said he has heard radio interviews or man-on-the-street exchanges that include insults against certain ethnic groups. He said such broadcasts appear intent on provoking, not informing.

But radio station director Cherif Papus Gono said that while there is some misconduct in the media, Guinean citizens are becoming more discerning. He said the people are increasingly able to distinguish between objective and non-objective media outlets and reporters.

The international NGO Search for Common Ground, the U.N., and other institutions are holding forums in the run-up to legislative polls, in part to discuss the “social responsibility” of the media.

Social responsibility

Mohamed Condé is secretary-general in Guinea’s communications ministry. He said in Guinea “social responsibility” means journalists taking into account the country’s unique socio-political context as they report and diffuse information, and this could mean holding back information likely to provoke unrest.

Bangaly Camara is director of Guinea’s Institute of Information and Communication, where he trains local journalists. He said journalists are reaching thousands of people at a time, and what they must understand is that first and foremost they are citizens, and it is not at all in their interest to fuel tensions. If journalists dissect candidates’ campaign messages and help voters make an informed choice, he said, they will have played their role and all Guineans come out ahead.

Guinea has scores of private radio and TV stations and websites. In a country where about 60 percent of the population is illiterate and recurrent power cuts make television-watching rare, most people get their news from radio.

In a 2011 report, Reporters Without Borders said Guinean media remain riven with ethnic divisions, and state media gave very limited play to the opposition. And there are continued concerns about crackdowns on journalists.

Guinea is ranked 86th out of 179 countries in Reporters Without Borders yearly press freedom index.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs