9 February 2016

Guinea: Media Blackout in Memory of Slain Journalist


In Guinea, West Africa, five media associations staged a "press-free day" on Tuesday in a tribute to journalist El Hadj Mohamed Diallo who was shot dead outside the offices of an opposition party last week.

DW spoke to Kerry Paterson, Africa Research Associate at the New York-based Committee to Project Journalists (CPJ). What was her response to this protest?

If journalists in the country want to take a stand for press freedom and want to say that it is unacceptable for journalists to be forced to work or perform their duties in unsafe conditions, then it is their right to protest. In some ways it is commendable that they see their profession - and creating a blackout therein - as a means of maximizing their impact.

Would you say that this is an appropriate way to respond to this killing? Other news is not being tackled today, during the blackout.

Of course. But in the reality of doing his work El-Hadj Mohamed Diallo was killed. He was doing nothing but his job and in the course of doing that job, he lost his life. It is totally understandable that journalists and supporters of press freedom would want to protest in the cause of improving the conditions of those in the profession. It is not up to CPJ to say how people should or shouldn't protest, but there are certainly within their rights to protest and it is certainly understandable that people who work in a profession that faces that kind of danger would be upset by what happened.

Local media in Guinea say it is unclear who shot Diallo, but why would anyone have wanted to kill him?

I can't speak for the specifics of the case. My understanding is that local police have said they will be thoroughly investigating the murder and that is a decision that we absolutely welcome. In terms of why someone is targeted; we don't know that he was targeted. It is possible that he was caught in crossfire. I know there are clashes that broke out during a political meeting on the 5th [February]. If he was targeted, then it is not unusual that journalists are targeted for their work in Guinea. Over the last several years, we have seen a lot of pressure put on the press, whether it's journalists being threatened, or radio stations being shut down, or TV stations being told they cannot run what they want to. Oppression of the press comes in many forms. Unfortunately, whether an accident or not, the fact is that the journalist lost his life doing his job.

You say that this is not the first time there have been attacks on media freedom in Guinea. I remember journalists were brutally murdered at the peak of the Ebola epidemic and their bodies were dumped in a septic tank. How risky is it to practice journalism in Guinea?

Unfortunately, it is too much of a risk. That's not to say that you will face some sort of repression with absolute certainty, but the reality is that we have documented several deaths over the past few years. It is totally unacceptable that journalists in the course of informing the public and trying to hold to account those in power have to do so at the risk of losing their lives. As you pointed out it was a journalist and two media workers - three who were killed - covering the Ebola education campaign in 2014. This was a public health emergency being covered by journalists for the benefit of the public and all three of them paid for it with their lives.

What is CPJ doing to protect journalists working in Guinea?

Primarily, we are a research and advocacy organization. For the most part what we are trying to do is monitor the situation closely, make sure that political and country officials know that we have an eye on the country, that we are holding them to account to ensure that thorough investigations are launched where journalists are attacked or murdered and that perpetrators are held to justice.

Kerry Paterson is Africa Research Associate at the New York-based Committee to Project Journalists.

Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu


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