- The executive arm of the Senegalese journalist union, Bureau Executive National (BEN), was forced to convene an emergency extra-ordinary session today to shame and condemn waves of death threats against their members in the country.
At the end of the session, BEN issued a statement, describing the anonymous death threats of Pape Ale Niang and Die Maty Fall of Sud Communications Group, publishers and broadcasters of the independent 'Sud Quotidien' and 'Sud FM' radio stations in Senegal.
Also of concern to BEN was a threat against the life of a prominent human rights activist, Alioune Tine, who doubles as the Secretary General of Rancontre Africaines de Droit d'homme (RADDHO).
Recently, the three have received death threats from anonymous people through written messages and telephone calls. The motive behind these threats are unclear, it is however believed that those behind the acts are "enemies of freedom".
Senegal is gearing up for presidential elections in early 2007, and in particular the country's independent press has given extraordinary coverage of opposition candidate Idrissa Seck, while both the press and rights activists have decried the recent human rights violations made by the government of President Abdoulaye Wade.
Union executives nevertheless urged the state to properly investigate these insecurity, intimidation and attacks on freedom of expression in the country. "The executive bureau rises against these drifts, which we believe are meant to disrupt and undermine our democracy and social peace," the statement read.
In such a "fearful climate," the journalist union said it would continue to guarantee the material and moral interests of its members.
The body said it was to hold dialogues with partners of press freedom and democracy in the coming days.
Of equal concern to the Senegalese union is what they called "unbalanced treatment of national topics by certain members of press." It therefore asked all journalists in the country, particularly its members to uphold the journalistic principles of objectivity during coverage of news and current affairs as elections approach.
The threats have come at a time when Senegalese media is dominated by politics of the 2007 presidential and legislation elections in which President Wade is seeking for a re-election into office. He is however not getting it easy in the face of a strong but fragmented opposition.
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