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Armed forces briefly silence broadcast media after murder of president and chief of staff

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Guinea-Bissau's broadcast media were allowed to resume operating shortly after midday on 2 March 2009 after being ordered off the air the previous night following the murder of the armed forces' Chief of Staff, which was followed in turn on 2 March by the murder of President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira.

"Amid the current instability, we urge all of Guinea-Bissau's actors, especially the armed forces, to respect press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said. "More than ever, the circumstances require that journalists be protected and that their ability to work freely be guaranteed."

At around 9:00 p.m.(local time), on 1 March, about an hour after the bomb attack at the headquarters of the armed forces that killed the chief of staff, Gen. Tagmé Na Waié, the army ordered the capital's privately-owned radio stations and the national television station to stop broadcasting for "security reasons."

On the morning of 2 March, the local radio and TV stations broadcast only music, while the international media continued to broadcast normally. The resumption of normal broadcasting took place at about 1:00 p.m. on 2 March.

In reprisal for the attack on the armed forces headquarters, soldiers loyal to the slain chief of staff went to President Vieira's private home in the early hours of 2 March and killed him as he was trying to flee.

In a November 2007 report entitled "Cocaine and coups haunt gagged nation" about the precarious situation of Guinea-Bissau's journalists, Reporters Without Borders asked the armed forces to follow the law in the event of any conflict with the media and to publicly recognise the importance of a vigorous, free and well-informed press for the success of the country's reconstruction. The military authorities never acted on this request.

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