(RSF/IFEX) - RSF is concerned about the serious deterioration of the press freedom situation in Guinea-Bissau following the permanent closure of the country's main opposition radio station. "The situation has been getting increasingly worse since the expulsion of the Portuguese radio and television broadcaster's bureau chief in December (see IFEX alert of 3 December 2002). Today the government is silencing one of the country's most critical media voices once and for all," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Kumba Yala. "This decision is particularly worrying for the future of information pluralism in Guinea-Bissau, with just two months to go before general elections," Ménard added. The organisation asked the president to do everything within his power to ensure that Bombolom FM is allowed to resume broadcasting as soon as possible.
RSF recalls that the Guinean head of state was included on the list of 23 "press freedom dunces" denounced by the organisation at the recent Franco-African Summit in Paris.
On 27 February 2003, the government announced the permanent withdrawal of Bombolom FM's broadcast permit. The radio station was accused of having demonstrated a lack of "professionalism", "pluralism" and "objectivity" in its news coverage. Bombolom FM was shut down on 13 February for an unspecified period, after an opposition politician criticised President Yala on the air. Secretary of State for Information Joao Manuel Gomes accused the station of "broadcasting false news likely to threaten national sovereignty and the country's stability."
Bombolom FM has been a frequent target of the government in recent years, having faced numerous threats and pressure. Several of the station's journalists have also been arrested or summoned by the courts.
RSF recalls that Portuguese radio and television broadcaster Radiotelevisão Portuguesa (RTP) bureau chief Joao Perreira Da Silva was ordered to leave the country within 48 hours on 6 December 2002. He was accused of disrespecting a government official. The Portuguese Foreign Affairs Ministry protested the journalist's expulsion a few days later. RTP has not replaced its correspondent to date.