No pay, no news. Guinea Bissau’s journalists go on strike

The strike comes two weeks from the start of campaigning for the legislative elections
Men chat in front of “the Hand of Timba” monument where locals used to gather against Portuguese colonisation ahead of the Bissau Carnival parade on February 12, 2018 in Bissau. – The 2018 edition of the Bissau Carnival celebrating diversity and nature was held two days after the schedule date due to financial problems. (Photo by Xaume Olleros / AFP)

Journalists working for public media in Guinea-Bissau have gone on strike over back pay and an end to “censorship”, according to the media’s union and press watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF).

The strike, now in its fourth day, involves workers at the state-owned newspaper “No Pintcha”, the public radio and television and the national press agency ANG.

It comes around two weeks from the start of campaigning for the legislative elections on March 10, which aim to defuse a long-running crisis.

The country has been locked in a political standoff since President Jose Mario Vaz sacked his premier in 2015.

A consensus prime minister Aristide Gomes was finally named with the task of steering the country to a vote.

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The strikers’ union are demanding that the government pay the salaries they are owed from December 2018 through January.

The television journalists are also calling for an end to the “favouritism” given to a party allied with the president in political coverage, one of their representatives, Domingos Tiago Gomes, told reporters.

“It’s the television of all Guineans, therefore all competing political parties should receive an equal amount of coverage of their activities,” Gomes said.

RSF urged the Guinean authorities “to end the censorship” and “refrain from any meddling in news coverage which is the sole responsibility of journalists,” Assane Diagne, director of RSF’s West Africa office, said in a statement.

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Guinea-Bissau was ranked 83rd worldwide on press freedom in 2018, according to RSF.

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