The EU Censors a Unique Academic Study

The Voices of the People initiative was designed to advance scientific research and promote democratic development in Guinea-Bissau. The project was established by DEMOS, a research center based in Paraguay and Guinea-Bissau, and funded by the European Union (EU). 

In 2018, DEMOS carried out the first public opinion survey in the history of Guinea-Bissau. Its findings were presented in a public event led by the EU ambassador. The following year, the EU commissioned DEMOS to develop the survey results through data mining, a focus group study and a comparative review of public opinion in Africa, and to “disseminate these findings through publications, presentations and trainings.” 

Under this contract, DEMOS produced three substantive reports and a 306-page edited volume, Voices of the People: Society, Politics and Public Opinion in Guinea-Bissau, in Portuguese and English. For all we know, no other country in Africa has carried out a public opinion study of this scope and originality. (Further details on this research can be found here).

In November 2021, EU officials reviewed and praised the book manuscript and described it as a “fantastic study.” Yet in an abrupt turnabout, on November 29, 2021, the EU resolved to halt the publication. Despite repeated requests, the EU never explained this sudden change of heart or request any alterations of the work produced. 

A complete, print-ready book manuscript was delivered to the EU in early December 2021. Shortly after, the EU proposed to amend its contract with DEMOS to allow for the non-publication of the edited volume and its ancillary studies. DEMOS rejected the proposal, arguing that it violated the EU’s agreement to publish the research findings. Moreover, DEMOS claimed that this would contravene the principles of academic freedom and transparency on which the project was based. The EU, nonetheless, decided to implement the rejected amendment and censor the study. 

In January and February 2022, the EU rebuffed efforts to clarify its concerns over the book manuscript. Moreover, it disregarded attempts made by DEMOS to negotiate an amicable agreement that would allow for its publication. Claiming to own the copyright of the work, in June 2022, the EU reaffirmed its decision to bar the study, despite its commitment to publish and disseminate the research findings.      

The Voices of the People initiative created an innovative inquiry of exceptional value for understanding society and politics in Guinea-Bissau. The project was designed to empower Guineans with access to novel insights on their country, and to promote the use of this information to foster social accountability, inclusion and constructive dialogue.

Rather than bolster democracy and science in Guinea-Bissau, the EU’s act of censorship has disempowered Guinean citizens, suppressed academic freedom and curtailed scientific progress. 

In a perverse turn of events, a project paid for by the European people to advance knowledge and human rights in this West African nation, has led to the opposite outcome.   

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About DEMOS. DEMOS – Center for Democracy, Creativity and Social Inclusion is a research and democracy promotion hub established in Paraguay, in 2014, with an affiliate in Guinea-Bissau. For further information please visit the DEMOS website: www.demos.org.py


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