On the whole, press freedom is observed in Senegal. However, the fact that four journalists were arrested and several assaulted during the year shows that this freedom is still fragile and must constantly be watched.

At the beginning of the year a shortage of newsprint forced most titles to reduce their number of pages and their circulation. For a while some dailies' circulation dropped from 15,000 to 3,000 copies.

At the same time the communication minister announced the end of the state monopoly on television and the advent of new, private-sector television channels. In May the communication ministry was abolished and the general secretary of the government put in charge of the information and new technology sector. The state president had repeatedly affirmed his will to take press and information out of the state's hands.

In June SYNPICS, the Senegalese union of information and communication professionals, denounced "the proliferation of a kind of gutter press" and the multiplication of cases of misconduct. For the first time the CRED, the ethics commission, publicly condemned a journalist accused of "serious breach of ethics".

Four journalists arrested

Alioune Fall, editor-in-chief of the daily Le Matin, was taken into police custody on 10 July 2001 by the DIC (criminal investigation department), for publishing an article on a gang leader's escape from Reubeus central prison in Dakar. The article mentioned "shortcomings" in the security system that enabled the prisoner to escape. It also reported the fact that certain police officers were angry about the inquiry being given to the gendarmerie and saw it as a challenge to their authority. The DIC asked Alioune Fall to reveal his sources, although in terms of the 2 February 1996 law they had no right to do so. He was released the next day. On 17 August he was charged with "spreading false news" but remained free on bail.

Police arrested Ousseynou Nar Gueye, managing editor, Souleymane Ndiaye, editor-in-chief, and Cheikh Touré, computer graphics artist of Le Tract on 1 August and confiscated all copies of the daily. That day's edition contained a photomontage of the prime minister, Ms. Mame Madior Boye, in beachwear. The three journalists were released the next day.

Six journalists attacked

In March 2001 militants with the ruling PDS, the Senegalese democratic party, assaulted Cheikh Diemg, Wal Fadjri correspondent in Vélingara in southern Senegal. The assailants went to the journalist's house to protest against reports on dissension in the party.

The Vélingara correspondent for the privately-owned Sud Quotidien was assaulted on 16 April by PDS activists close to the mayor of the town, Bèye Baldé. The journalist, Moussa Diop, was on his way to an interview with a local political leader when about ten individuals blocked his way and started throwing stones at him. He took shelter in his car. All his car windows were broken and he was hit in the back by a stone before managing to flee. According to the journalist, dissension exists within the local PDS and Bèye Baldé had complained about his articles on the topic. "This journalist is against me", said the mayor to the newspaper management when asked for explanations for the assault. On the same day the state president, Abdoulaye Wade, on a visit to the area, told a local PDS leader that he had to pay for repairs to the journalist's car.

Libasse Ndiaye, cameraman for African Television News (ATN), was manhandled and threatened with death at gunpoint by Mbaye Niang and Mawo Fall, bodyguards of the former president of the senate, Abdoulaye Diack. The assault took place outside the DIC where Mr. Diack was being questioned after admitting that he had misappropriated public funds during his mandate. The management of African Television News (ATN), the TV news agency of the RACECO group, filed a complaint against the two bodyguards.

On 29 April, the day of the legislative elections, El Malick Seck, managing editor of the daily Deuk Bi based in Thiès, east of Dakar, was set on by PDS activists. The journalist sustained head injuries and the film from the camera of a photographer with the daily was destroyed. They were accused of taking pictures of clashes between PDS supporters and opposition party militants.

On 10 December Babacar Ndiaye, correspondent for Agence de presse sénégalaise (APS) in Thiès, 70 km from Dakar, and Mr. Diatta, journalist with the privately-owned station Sud-FM, were manhandled by gendarmes in the town. The journalists were covering a demonstration by former members of UN peacekeeping forces, who were claiming payment of their bonuses. The gendarmes had received orders to prevent the press from being present at negotiations between the demonstrators and officers of the Senegalese army.

Pressure and obstruction

On 6 February 2001 the court sentenced Mamadou Thierno Talla, journalist with the daily Le Populaire, to three months in jail, suspended, and payment of five million CFA francs (about 7,600 euros) in damages to the plaintiff, Assana Diagne. Mr Diagne, manager of the SICAP (Société immobilière du Cap-Vert) had sued him for publishing an article in November 2000 in he was accused of being responsible for the disappearance of a billion CFA francs (about 1,524,000 euros) at SICAP.

The president of the press group that publishes Le Matin, Baba Tandian, and the daily's managing editor Mame Less Camara, were summoned to the Thiong gendarmerie on 9 April. They were accused of citing the mayor of Guédiawaye (a suburb of Dakar), who had said that he had compromising files on President Abdoulaye Wade and two of his ministers.

On the night of 1 to 2 October a criminal fire damaged the premises of the private-sector press group Walfadjri (Radio Walf FM and the daily Wal Fadjri). The next day SYNPICS denounced "attempts to intimidate and muzzle the press".

In October Pape Samba Kane and Vieux Thiam, managing editor and journalist with the daily L'Info 7, were summoned three times by the police. The daily had stated that invitations to an international conference were being sold within the youth and environment ministry.


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