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Military authorities bar foreign journalists

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the latest disturbing escalation in the Guinean military's clampdown, consisting of denying entry to French TV crews and reporters on their arrival at Conakry international airport.

The latest development coincides with continuing serious threats to local reporters and the arrival of United Nations assistant secretary-general Haile Menkerios in Conakry to conduct a UN probe into last month's massacre of opposition demonstrators.

"The authorities in Conakry are clearly unhappy with the way the international media are covering events in Guinea and have apparently decided to stop allowing them into the country," Reporters Without Borders said. "After physically mistreating and then threatening local journalists, the Guinean military have begun a new phase in their handling of undesired witnesses."

The press freedom organisation continued: "Given the prevailing climate, this latest measure and the absence of any foreign journalist in Guinea are extremely worrying. We urge the UN assistant secretary-general not to limit his investigation to the 28 September violence but to include the issue of press freedom and the treatment of journalists."

Three French journalists employed by the French international TV news station France 24 were refused entry at Conakry airport on the evening of 17 October and were put on the first flight back to Paris. Two of them, Cyril Vannier and Willy Bracciano, did not have visas. The third, Alain Chabot, had a visa and had already visited the country since 28 September. He was nonetheless also denied entry on the grounds that he did not have a letter of invitation.

Three journalists employed by the French public TV station France 2 were denied entry the same day on their arrival from the Senegalese capital of Dakar and were forced to take the first flight back to Senegal. Patrick Forestier, a French reporter employed by the magazine Paris Match, was denied entry on 15 October.

Meanwhile, many local journalists (whom Reporters Without Borders would rather not identify) continue to be kept under surveillance by the military authorities and continue to receive death threats, especially by telephone.

Reporters Without Borders added: "All of the actors involved in resolving the crisis should take these threats very seriously and should be aware that there could be more atrocities if nothing is done to ensure that Guinea's journalists are protected."

In the past few days, the French government has been urging its citizens to leave the country.
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