Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April 2014, 13:11 GMT

World Report - Mauritania

Publisher Reporters Without Borders
Publication Date March 2010
Cite as Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Mauritania, March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d59463ec.html [accessed 19 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
  • Area: 1,030,700 sq km
  • Population: 3,129,486
  • Languages: Arabic, French
  • Head of state: President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz, since August 2009

The country is settling down after five years of sometimes difficult switches between military and civilian governments. Media laws are the best in the sub-region and press freedom is satisfactory, but the recent imprisonment of an online journalist badly damaged this good reputation.

The August 2005 military coup, for once with an army takeover, radically improved media freedom. Censorship and bureaucratic obstacles to newspaper publication ended and the relay of Radio France Internationale was again permitted. Since then, the country has successfully held a constitutional referendum, honest local and parliamentary elections and in 2007 a clean presidential poll that the media reported on in a balanced way.

Media freedom became a reality but much work remains to be done and the situation is still very fragile, as shown by the June 2009 imprisonment of Hanevy Ould Dehah, editor of the website Taqadoumy for supposedly "undermining good morals." He was arbitrarily kept in prison after serving his six-month sentence, then retried and convicted again before being pardoned by the president after being held for eight months in all. The case showed the urgency of incorporating reference to the Internet in the press law to fill the legal gap that strikes at new media.

Since the fall of the dictatorship of Maaouiya Ould Taya in 2005, the media's problems have become both fewer and more complicated. Under the old regime, issues of newspapers were regularly seized and journalists thrown in prison under article 11 of the 1991 press law as soon as they mentioned taboo subjects such as slavery in Mauritania. With the new democratic laws, newspapers have flourished and now freely cover sensitive topics. The press remains divided and sensationalist newspapers (called "peshmergas") now dominate the media.

Apart from the legal changes needed to take account of the Internet, the government needs to tidy up the media environment, open up broadcasting and help the press survive the tough economic times.

Updated : March 2010

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