Freedom House (Autor)
The constitution guarantees freedom of the press, but this right is not respected in practice. Guinea's press suffered more setbacks in 2004 as a rumored coup d'etat, increasing tension with neighboring countries, and the failing health of President Lansana Conte combined to heighten government paranoia. Restrictive press laws permit the government to censor publications, and defamation and slander are considered criminal offenses. The only privately owned daily newspaper, Le Quotidien, was ordered shut by the National Communication Council in November following publication of an article entitled "The Country Is in Bad Shape...When Will the Uprising Take Place?". The suspension lasted three weeks. Other publications, including L'Aurore, L'Observateur, La Sonde, Le Defi, and Jeune Afrique-L'Intelligent, were targets of warnings and bans during the year.
In December, red berets of the Autonomous Battalion, the army's special branch responsible for presidential security, physically roughed up several journalists. The reporters were harassed because they attempted to cover a speech President Conte was giving to newly elected local assembly members. The 70-year-old Conte, in power since a 1984 coup and reelected to a third term in December, is rarely seen in public, and the subject of his failing health is taboo for the press.
Physical intimidation aside, a government monopoly of information and of the press makes it difficult for opposing viewpoints to flourish. The private sector publishes a daily newspaper, Le Quotidien, and a dozen other nondailies that are critical of the government. But the state controls all radio and television stations in addition to a state-run daily newspaper. Guinea remains the only state in West Africa without a private broadcast station. The law does not prohibit licensing private broadcast media, but the government has denied all applications by private entrepreneurs on the grounds of national security. Economic conditions do not necessarily favor a viable private press, but the state has made it difficult for private media to thrive.