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Guinea-Bissau

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press; however, there were reports the government did not always respect these rights. For example, upon his appointment in June as prime minister, Baciro Dja fired the heads of state-owned television and radio. On June 9, the dismissed head of the state-owned radio stated his dismissal was politically motivated and filed a lawsuit seeking its annulment. The case was pending at year’s end. There were reports of journalists receiving threats and practicing self-censorship.

Press and Media Freedoms: There were several private newspapers in addition to the government-owned newspaper No Pintcha, but the state-owned printing house published all of them.

In May the country’s leading pro-opposition blog Ditadura do Consenso was hacked. Critics accused the government of responsibility as part of its efforts to impede criticism and stifle freedom of speech. On July 7, the state-owned radio station’s general manager fired his news director and editor-in-chief for having disregarded an order not to broadcast a press conference by PAIGC Chairman Domingos Simoes Pereira, one of the president’s main political opponents.

Violence and Harassment: The government took no steps to preserve the safety and independence of media or to prosecute individuals who threatened journalists. For example, following firings at the state-owned radio station, a private radio station called Capital FM broadcast a program in which callers discussed and debated the dismissals. Capital FM’s director subsequently received several anonymous, written death threats.

INTERNET FREEDOM

The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority. There were allegations, however, that on May 21, a pro-Vaz hacker succeeded in breaking into the country’s leading pro-opposition blog Ditadura do Consenso.

According to the International Telecommunication Union, 3.54 percent of the population used the internet in 2015. Lack of infrastructure, equipment, and education severely limited access to the internet.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.

The constitution and law provide for the freedoms of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government generally respected these rights. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

As of February UNHCR reported the country hosted more than 8,600 Senegalese refugees and asylum seekers; most were from Senegal’s Casamance Region, where a low-level separatist conflict has gone on for decades.

Some refugees from Casamance lived in Guinea-Bissau for decades, but UNHCR reported the de facto ceasefire in Senegal prompted some to return to their villages in Senegal. Other Senegalese refugees moved back and forth across the border. With ethnic and family ties on both sides of the poorly marked border, the nationality of residents along the border was not always clear.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for granting of asylum or refugee status, but the government system for providing protection to refugees was inactive. The government did not grant refugee status or asylum during the year, and there were no reported requests for either. The UNHCR office in Bissau facilitated the issuance of refugee cards.

Durable Solutions: Nearly 3,000 Senegalese refugees in 2014 told UNHCR and the country’s National Commission for Refugees and Displaced Persons they wished to remain in the country permanently, and the government adopted a welcoming policy toward them. The government offered these refugees the option of citizenship or permanent residence; the first tranche was granted citizenship in 2015.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future