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Guinea-Bissau suspends Portuguese TV, radio broadcasts

© 2017 AFP

30 June 2017

The troubled west African state of Guinea Bissau on Friday said it had "suspended" broadcasts of Portuguese television and radio, triggering an angry response from its former colonial ruler.

The government accused Portugal of failing to observe a bilateral agreement on the media, but political sources said the reason lay in Guinea-Bissau's long-running domestic crisis.

Communications Minister Victor Pereira announced that Portugal's RTP radio and television station, RDP state radio were being "suspended as of today, and until further notice."

Pereira said Portugal had failed to observe a bilateral accord with Guinea Bissau.

"The agreement had been out of date for years and had to be revised before the expiry of the date we set" of June 30, Pereira said.

"For the last 14 years, we have been asking for the memorandum of understanding to be overhauled but the Portuguese have always turned a deaf ear," he said.

"The suspension will only be lifted if the Portguese authorities see the need for us to get around a table and renegotiate the agreement."

Under the agreement, a team from RTP is based in the capital Bissau, the two countries exchange media programmes and local journalists and technicians are offered training.

But according to political sources, the suspension reflected suspicions within the government that Portugal, via its national media, is seeking to influence a long-running struggle for power by providing more airtime to opponents of President Jose Mario Vaz.

The country has been in the grip of a power struggle since August 2015, when Vaz sacked then premier Domingos Simoes Pereira. Both are members of the African Party for Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC).

On May 27, police in Bissau used teargas to disperse a protest of around 2,000 people who demanded Vaz' resignation. Four police officers were injured by stones.

In Lisbon, the Portuguese foreign ministry lashed the suspension as "an attack on freedom of expression and freedom of the press" and said it had hauled in Guinea Bissau's ambassador to convey "the gravity of the situation."

It added that the Portuguese government exercised no editorial control over RTP, RDP and Lusa, "which behave with the same independence and impartiality in Bissau as in all the countries where they work."

"This kind of ultimatum is unacceptable, especially when it concerns two countries which are linked by close ties," the ministry added.