Guinea’s Junta Lifts Internet Restrictions

In this file photograph taken on September 17, 2021, President of the National Committee for Rally and Development (CNRD) Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (C) leaves a meeting with high level representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Conakry. The junta that seized power in the West African state of Guinea has unveiled a “transitional charter” that it says will steer the country back to civilian rule. The document, read out on national television late September 28, 2021, sets down a series of tasks, including the drafting of a new constitution and holding “free, democratic and transparent” elections, although it does not spell out how long the transition will last. JOHN WESSELS / AFP

Guinea’s military authorities relaxed internet access restrictions set three months ago, sparking demonstrations, residents reported overnight on Thursday.

The move comes a day after trade unions in the West African country declared an unrestricted countrywide strike beginning Monday to compel the ruling junta to release a major media activist, lower food prices, and restore internet connection.

The military, which took control in a coup in 2021, claimed the internet restrictions were necessary due to a “security issue.”

On Monday, they disbanded the transitional government, which had been in place since July 2022.

The junta did not provide a rationale for dissolving the government, which has heightened tensions in the country.

Under international criticism, it pledged to return control to elected people by the end of 2024, but the opposition accuses it of authoritarian slide.

Journalists have led protests against media restriction.

In addition to limiting internet access, authorities have banned major television networks and jammed radio frequencies.

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

Unions have demanded his immediate and unconditional release.

A court was set to rule on Friday whether he should be imprisoned for six months, as prosecutors had sought.

Protests have been prohibited since 2022 by the military, which deposed elected President Alpha Conde in September 2021.

The return of internet connection astonished many Guineans and provoked a rush of social media responses.

“This country’s worst enemies are its governments, especially this transitional team,” according to one critic.

“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 noted that restoring internet connection was one of the unions’ primary demands.

“Yet more proof that the only thing our leaders understand is force,” they were quoted as saying.

Written by PH

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