- Armed soldiers of the government of Guinea are reported to have attacked two journalists and destroyed their equipment. The two have earlier been questioned over critical reports on dying President Lansana Conté's health.
On 27 June, armed soldiers from the presidential guard assaulted Azoca Bah, a reporter with the Le Lynx La Lance Group, and Aboubakar Akoumba, managing editor of the weekly newspaper "L'Aurore". Their documents, together with Mr Bah's camera and film, were also seized and destroyed.
According to the Guinea office of the Media Foundation of West Africa, MFWA-Guinea, the incident occurred in Touba, a provincial town 400 kilometres northeast of the capital, Conakry.
Here, Mr Bah and Mr Akoumba had gone to cover a Koran-reading session for the health of dying President Lansana Conté and a demonstration by supporters of his candidature in the next elections.
Rally organisers reportedly were outraged by the presence of the two reporters, whose newspapers they accused of carrying irreverent reports about the President in previous editions.
Recent speculation and public debate about the President's health have been fuelled by the campaign for the re-election of President Conté, spearheaded by Elhadj Fodé Soumah, a leader of the ruling Party for Unity and Progress (PUP).
General Conté has been Guinea's head of state since 1984, when he led a military coup following the death of President Sékou Touré.
The attack on the two journalists comes shortly after other attacks on the Guinean press. From 24 to 26 March, Benn Pepito and Cellou Diallo, editor-in-chief and photographer, respectively, for 'La Lance- newspaper, were summoned and questioned for three consecutive days about a photograph of President Conté, carried in issue 325 of the newspaper.
On 18 March, officials from the Internal Security Service (DST) physically assaulted and excluded Mr Bah and Mr Diallo from a meeting of journalists called by General Conté at the presidential palace, according to MFWA-Guinea.
In Guinea, different political parties normally do not have equal media access and when an election approaches. Then, the bias increases and the state-owned radio and television just carries demonstrations of support for President Conté, together with the ruling party's spots and extensive coverage of its campaign, according to the French group Reporters sans Frontičres (RSF).
On the other hand, the situation of the press in Guinea had somewhat improved lately, according to RSF. Last year, authorities tried to curb arbitrary practices in the punishment of press offences. Justice Minister Abou Camara announced in August 2002 that the judicial police were henceforth banned from arresting journalists for press offences and that errant journalists would have to be cited before a court.
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