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On the hunt for journalists; massacre of demonstrators

Guinean soldiers massacred demonstrators at an opposition rally
Guinean soldiers massacred demonstrators at an opposition rally

Reuters via cbc.ca

Journalists were assaulted after they witnessed a massacre of protesters by Guinean soldiers during an opposition demonstration on 28 September in Conakry, report the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and other IFEX members. Two journalists have gone into hiding after learning that soldiers are on the hunt for them for reporting the killings to the international community.

A mass rally was organised by a coalition of political parties and civil society groups to protest the decision by Capt. Mousa Dadis Camara, the leader of the ruling junta, to run for next year's presidential election, says MFWA. Camara came to power last December in a bloodless coup after the death of Guinea's longtime ruler Lansana Conté. The African Union has threatened sanctions if Camara does not remain out of the 31 January election.

About 50,000 people came to a soccer stadium for the protest, say news reports, and some chanted "We want true democracy." Troops shot, stabbed and assaulted men and women; more than 1,000 suffered gunshot wounds or injuries; and women were raped by soldiers in the open and assaulted with guns, says Human Rights Watch. A Guinean rights group told the international press that 157 were killed. But news reports say an exact death toll is impossible to obtain as the army removed bodies from the stadium. Journalists were beaten while their equipment was destroyed, report IFEX members.

Mouctar Bah, the Conakry correspondent for Agence France-Presse and Radio France Internationale, and Amadou Diallo, BBC correspondent, were made to kneel in the midst of dead bodies and pools of blood, and ordered by soldiers at gunpoint not to report on what they had seen, says Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Bah and Diallo were told by friends that the soldiers were looking for them as they were seen to have "betrayed" the military.

According to MFWA, on the day of the rally, two other journalists, Ibrahima Diallo, reporter of radio "Liberté FM", and Mamadou Mansaré, a reporter of "Familia FM", were beaten by soldiers.

Zakaria Camara of "Sabari FM", Abou Bakr, editor of "Le Lynx" newspaper, and two other "Le Lynx" journalists, Thierno Hassane Diallo and Nimatoulaye Diallo, were also assaulted, reports MFWA. Journalist Mouctar Diallo was arrested. Another reporter of "Familia FM", Diallo Saidou, is currently being held in one of the country's military camps, reports MFWA.

Then on 6 October, a number of journalists were threatened with death by Red Beret troops deployed at the Bellevue Presidential Resort in Conakry, reports MFWA. A member of the Red Berets said, "We are going to kill all of you very soon. We are going to raid your offices to turn everything upside down because you are the ones disseminating false information about us. You will all die and the whole world is going to talk about the Guinean media."

Guinean security forces have fired on protesters numerous times and, in 2007, more than 130 demonstrators were killed during a nationwide strike on worsening economic conditions, says Human Rights Watch. Meanwhile, the junta's leader refuses to be held accountable for the recent massacre. "What happened cannot be disputed," Camara told Radio France International in an interview. "But on whom should responsibility be put?" He said he was in his office at the time and wouldn't take the blame.

Demonstrators, opposition members and journalists are being detained in military camps, reports Human Rights Watch:"The depth of impunity enjoyed by Guinea's security forces was on full display this week. The Guinean authorities should immediately free or charge the people who have been locked up and permit a full inquiry into the violence to root out those responsible."

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