Guinea-Bissau - "Cocaine and coups haunt gagged nation" - a report on the dangers for journalists in a narco-state in the making



    MONTREAL, Nov. 12 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today released
the report of a fact-finding visit to Guinea-Bissau to investigate the
precarious situation of its journalists. They live under permanent threat from
Colombian drug traffickers and their local accomplices, whose criminal
activities have been eating away at the country for several years.
    Several journalists have had scary experiences after getting too close to
the drug traffickers and their civilian and military accomplices this year
and, although the press is otherwise relatively free in Guinea-Bissau, two of
them have fled the country.
    Aside from the clear threat to their own safety, they knew from hearing
it repeated many times that overly embarrassing revelations about the
involvement of senior army officers in cocaine trafficking could reawaken old
and cruel demons. What journalist would, for a miserable wage, risk being
gunned down or exposing their loved-ones to a generalised outbreak of
violence? To avoid a vendetta or a coup, most of Bissau's journalists have
opted for omertà.
    Despite the threat it poses to Guinea-Bissau, there is a national taboo
about openly discussing the cocaine trade, and the press is ill- equipped to
meet this challenge. The government fears head-on confrontation with the army
because of the danger of plunging the country into another civil war or
triggering a major inter-ethnic conflict. But at the same time, it is under
pressure from the international community, which sees this small, West African
country slowly falling into the grip of the Colombian cartels.
    Destitute and fearful, the local news media shed no more than a feeble
light on this embryonic narco-state.
    "Everyone is against drug trafficking in this country of chameleons,"
said one disillusioned local journalist. In the ministries and barracks of
this abandoned city, foreign journalists are often hard put to know "who is
who and who does what." Asking direct questions is usually unproductive. Drug
trafficking is everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
    The aim of the visit by a Reporters Without Borders representative to
Bissau from 4 to 8 October was to support the local media, meet the political
and judicial authorities and recommend ways to help journalists extricate
themselves from a situation that is stifling their work. The report on the
visit is available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

    If you would like to receive the full report, please contact Hélène
Fargues by email at rsfcanada3@rsf.org.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514) 521-7771,
rsfcanada@rsf.org

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