- Press freedom guards have raised alarms against a wave of media crack downs in Senegal, one of Africa’s biggest democracies where critical and independent journalists seem to be threading along a bumpy path.
Of late, Senegalese journalists join their colleagues in other African countries to live with fears of threats – mostly legal or political.
Press freedom activists frown upon what they call “two damning threats on independent journalism and free expression” in the country: threat on the life of a radio journalist and the sending of a newspaper director to jail for slander.
Gabriel Gbaglo, the Regional Director of International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), illustrates the incidents as “indications of the hostility of Senegalese officials towards a free and independent press.”
The Director of a pro-government daily newspaper, ‘Il est midi’ (It’s mid-day), Ndiogou Wack Seck, was convicted by the Correctional Court of Dakar to serve six months in jail for slandering two officials close to President Abdoulaye Wade.
The court also fined Mr Seck to pay CFA 40 million as damages to the plaintiffs, state lawyer Ousman Sèye and Alex Ndiaye. Both the Director and his paper were ordered to disappear from the media market for three months.
The paper was dragged to court for writing an article on 14 November 2006, accusing Mr Sèye and Mr Ndiaye of accepting bribes from the former jailed Prime Minister, Idrissa Seck, during the period of negotiation to free him.
Mr Seck, the current Mayor of Thies, spent seven months in jail after he was sacked as Prime Minister in April 2004. The government accused him of being corrupt.
Senegalese union of journalists raised alarms against the judgment, expressing worry as to why anti-press freedom laws should remain in the country’s law book.
The heavy sentence on ‘Il est midi’ and its Director followed a raid on Radio Disso FM by Moustapha Cissé Lô, the leader of the ruling party and member of the council in Central Senegal.
According to the Director of Radio Disso, Ibrahima Benjamin Diagne, Mr Lô who was flanked by 10 young men stomped the station’s offices late Wednesday evening to lodge a complaint about an aired programme some hours ago. During the said programme, a caller expresses how the inclusion of Mr Lô on the list of ruling party line up for the 3 June legislative polls has offended him.
Mr. Lô reportedly threatens the entire staff of the station with death any time his name was mentioned on Radio Disso. He also threatens to send thugs to loot the station.
The National Union of Media Professionals of Senegal (SYNPICS) asked the entire media fraternity in the country snub all event and activities of Mr Lô. SYNPICS is also preparing to file a civil suit against the politician so that the case serves as deterrent to others.
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