Guinea's Junta Lifts Internet Curbs

Guinea's junta lifts internet curbs

Conakry, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 24th Feb, 2024) The military authorities in Guinea have lifted restrictions on internet access, three months after they were imposed sparking protests, AFP correspondents reported Friday.

The move came a day after trades unions in the West African country announced an unlimited general strike from Monday to pressure the junta to release a prominent media activist, cut food prices and restore internet access.

The military, which seized power in a coup in 2021, had said the internet restrictions were needed because of a security "problem".

On Monday, they dissolved the transitional government, which had been in office since July 2022.

The junta did not give a reason for scrapping the government, a move that has exacerbated tensions in the country.

Under international pressure, it promised to hand back power to elected civilians by the end of 2024 but the opposition has accused it of authoritarian drift.

Journalists have been at the forefront of protests against media censorship.

In addition to curbing access to the internet, the authorities have blocked major television channels and jammed radio frequencies.

Sekou Jamal Pendessa, secretary general of the Union of Press Professionals of Guinea (SPPG), was arrested in January for "participating in an unauthorised protest".

He was sentenced on Friday to six months in prison, of which three were suspended, his lawyer Salifou Beavogui told AFP.

"It's an innocent man who has just been convicted," Beavogui said, adding he had lodged an appeal.

Unions and media watchdog Reporters Without Borders are demanding his immediate and unconditional release.

It is "a terrible blow to press freedom", said Jeanne Lagarde of Reporters Without Borders.

Protests have been banned since 2022 by the military, who ousted elected president Alpha Conde in September 2021.

The resumption of internet access overnight Thursday-Friday surprised many in Guinea and sparked a flurry of social media comments.

"This country's worst enemies are its governments, especially this transitional team," said one commentator.

"They are trying to curry favour now by making us believe these internet restrictions were the work of only a few people in the dismissed (administration)."