February 23, 2024

Guinea’s junta lifts internet restrictions

Guinea junta warns against protests on coup anniversary

The military authorities in Guinea have lifted restrictions on internet access, which were imposed three months ago and sparked protests, residents observed overnight on Thursday.

The move came a day after trade unions in the West African country announced an unlimited general strike from Monday to pressure the ruling 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”.

Unions are demanding his immediate and unconditional release.

A court was due to rule on Friday whether he should be jailed for six months, as prosecutors have requested.

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

The resumption of internet access 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).”

Another commentator pointed out that restoring internet access had been one of the unions’ main demands.

“Yet more proof that the only thing our leaders understand is force,” they said.