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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid