Guinea lifts media gag on Conde attack
Conakry - Guinea's National Council on Communication (CNC) has lifted a media ban on reports concerning a rocket attack on the residence of President Alpha Conde in Conakry, the body's chief said.
"I ordered the lifting of the ban which affected all media, private and public, regarding the attack on the residence of the head of state in consultation with press representatives," CNC president Martine Conde told AFP late Thursday.
According to Conde, the ban was lifted "in the framework of the call for peace issued by the head of state" shortly after the attack on July 19. President Conde was unhurt in the attack by armed men in military uniform, but a presidential guard was killed and two wounded.
The CNC on July 25 decided on a "temporary suspension of any broadcast or article relating to the atttempt on the life of the head of state", including on media in French.
France is the former colonial power in the troubled west African country, which has seen several coup bids.
Martine Conde denied that the CNC lifted the ban as a response to external pressure, describing it as a "sovereign decision. We wanted to avoid excesses, because many people complained to us".
The ban had been denounced by Guinean press associations, who issued a statement calling it a "flagrant violation of the constitution, which upholds the freedom of the press among basic liberties".
On Thursday, France urged the Guinean leader to repeal the ban. Foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said, "This ban is a serious breach of freedom of expression. We ask President Conde to reconsider this decision in his role as guardian of freedom in Guinea".
Since the attack, 25 soldiers and 13 civilians have been arrested, according to the ministry of justice. Legal proceedings have been opened by the Conakry prosecutor on charges including "an attempt to assassinate the head of state".
One judicial source said that a first group of six people accused of taking part in the attack or being connected to it appeared on Wednesday before a court in the capital.