- The government of Guinea recently pledged to liberalise the country's airwaves and permit independent broadcasting soon. Regional press freedom organisations welcome the move, hoping that pluralist information would now be made available to Guineans, whose principal media is the radio.
Guinea's Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo announced the decision during the first week of January 2005, when he met with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties. The Guinean government has set up an interim ministerial commission to work on the modalities of the liberalisation process, and the results are expected to be ready by the end of February.
The move was today welcomed by the Accra-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), which promotes press freedom in the region. The regional body has been lobbying for a liberalisation of Guinea's broadcast media for several years.
In 2004, in collaboration with the National Communication Council of Guinea, MFWA organised a conference on "Media Pluralism in the Development of a Democratic Society", to push for the liberalisation of national airwaves. The conference was held from 19 to 21 April in the Guinean capital, Conakry.
The conference followed numerous efforts by MFWA and Guinean rights organisations to advocate for independent broadcasting in the country. Until now, Guinea has been the only country in the 15-member Economic Community of West Africa that does not allow private broadcasting companies to operate freely.
At the end of the April conference, participants adopted a declaration calling for a speedy liberalisation of the electronic media in Guinea. This, the rights groups held, would allow for "enhanced access by the population to pluralist information and to civic and citizenship education" and "better support for the country's decentralisation policy."
Further, according to the declaration, a liberalisation would provide "healthy competition between the public and private electronic media with the likelihood of improved programme quality and emphasis on national culture and national languages." Finally, it would mean a diversification of the means of expression and the sources of information for information users, among others scientific information.
Considering that the liberalisation of the electronic media, "far from being a political demand, is a necessity for pluralist expression and the consolidation of a democratic society," the participants of the Conakry conference made an appeal to the government, and particularly to President Lansana Conté, "to carry through the process of liberalisation."
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