Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:48 GMT

Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Mauritania

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 2000
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1999 - Mauritania, February 2000, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
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.

Mauritania's press remained at the mercy of strict laws that give the government broad discretion to close down outspoken newspapers. The infamous Article 11 of the 1991 press ordinance has been the authorities' weapon of choice against critical independents for much of the past decade. It grants the authorities broad power to ban the distribution of any newspaper deemed detrimental to Islam or state authority, threatening to public order, or defamatory to heads of foreign states. In April, for example, the independent weekly Le Calame was hit with a three-month ban, apparently in response to a story alleging that Mauritania had agreed to bury Israeli nuclear waste.

Such arbitrary closures have encouraged Mauritanian journalists to censor themselves on politically sensitive issues, since prolonged or frequent suspensions can push most papers into financial ruin. Such was the case with the independent weekly Mauritanie Nouvelles, which closed for good in 1998 after years of heavy government censorship and closure orders.

April 7

Mauritania's Ministry of Interior slapped a three-month ban on both the Arabic and the French-language editions of the independent weekly Le Calame. No reason was given for the ban, which was imposed in accordance with the country's press code. Local journalists, suspect however, that the move came in response to an article the paper published alleging that Israel had paid the Mauritanian government US$20 million to bury nuclear waste in the Sahara desert.

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