SENEGAL


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JULY 9, 2004
Posted: July 27, 2004

Madiambal Diagne, Le Quotidien
IMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION

Diagne, publication director of the Senegalese independent daily Le Quotidien, was detained in connection with articles about alleged fraud in the customs service and alleged government interference in the judiciary.

Diagne was summoned to police headquarters in the capital, Dakar, on July 8. He was questioned about the articles and pressed to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, according to international news reports and local sources. He was told to return the following day. When he did so, he was charged with "publishing secret documents," "publishing false information," and "acts and maneuvers likely to cause public unrest and discredit public institutions." He was arrested and taken to prison.

According to Diagne's lawyer, Boucounta Diallo, the journalist faces several years in prison if convicted. Diagne was charged in connection with two separate articles he wrote. The first, which appeared in Le Quotidien on June 23, 2004, reported on allegations of fraud in the customs service and implicated government officials including the former Customs Director Boubacar Camara. The piece included a reference to a secret June 11 letter from Finance Minister Abdoulaye Diop to President Abdoulaye Wade concerning an inquiry into the scandal.

The second article, which appeared in Le Quotidien on July 5, 2004, accused President Wade and Justice Minister Sérigne Diop of sending certain judges to the interior of the country because they are too independent-minded, while promoting less qualified judges to more senior positions. Diagne also wrote that some members of the judiciary were unhappy and were preparing to take action.

Almost all of Senegal's private newspapers refrained from publishing on July 12 to protest Diagne's arrest and what they say is a government attempt to muzzle the press. Private radio stations also protested by airing only music interspersed with information about Diagne's arrest and imprisonment, which also drew protests and condemnation from journalists' associations and civil society groups in Senegal and neighboring countries.

Diagne was granted a provisional release on July 26, but the criminal charges against him remain. His defense filed a motion requesting that the charges be dismissed.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale following his release, Diagne said, "If my arrest has enabled the Senegalese government to become aware of the need to amend the criminal code, I am really glad to be the cause."