The incident, which came amid a flurry
of threats and violence against independent media, triggered protests actions in Senegal, and recently
and a news
blackout as well as the formation of a local Committee for the Protection
and Defense of Journalists. In a surprising twist however, authorities have
accused the victims of triggering the incident by assaulting one of the
policemen, a claim ridiculed by journalists. A senior judge is overseeing the
case, but a larger national and international debate about
This week, in a 4,100-word editorial titled
of rogue journalism threatens our freedoms," published in the state-run
daily Le Soleil, ruling party
Member of Parliament Iba Der Thiam chastised what he
termed "rogue journalists" in
Thiam listed the names of more than 70
Senegalese journalists deemed "excellent," before describing unnamed rogue
journalists as corrupt, blackmailing, diploma-less, "terrorist" political
militants obsessed with sensationalism, negative character assassination, and
tarnishing the image of the nation. He went as far to compare their journalism
to that of Radio Television des Milles Collines--a station infamous for its role in 1994
On Tuesday, Farba Senghor, a government cabinet minister and the propaganda chief of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party, declared that the party would boycott "a certain press" until the end of the year. Senghor, who was never publicly held accountable for threatening to "beat up" a journalist in 2007, recently called for an anti-media campaign in response to a coverage blackout of the party's activities launched by the independent media.
Some Senegalese independent journalists CPJ spoke to said such hostile comments toward the media by officials, security forces, and members of the powerful Mouride Muslim brotherhood were partly fueled by the contemptuous rhetoric of President Abdoulaye Wade. Once an ally of the press who endured decades of repression as an opposition leader, Wade has since presided over more suppression of independent media than his predecessors. Since coming to office, police interrogation of journalists and, to a lesser extent, raids of newsrooms over political stories, has become routine. Wade has also reneged his pledges to scrap criminal libel laws, and frequently threatened to impose regulations on press cards.
"Read the press in
His fellow party
member Thiam charged in his editorial that 50 percent of the reports of the
Senegalese press are either false or unfounded.
He went on to declare that criticism must be done "responsibly" because it
is counterproductive to national interests of development and breeds "Afro
pessimism." To illustrate this point, he cited an alleged confidence from a
government minister disclosing that a German investor who arrived in
Authorities frequently challenge the
professionalism of Senegalese independent journalists. While political and
financial pressures undermine the independence of free media allover Africa,
Meanwhile, journalists continue to be summoned to the police for political stories. Last week, police blocked the distribution of private newspaper L'As and interrogated the editor over an interview of a judiciary union leader critical of the interior minister, according to local media reports and local journalists.