Félix N’zalé, a journalist and managing editor of privately-owned La Tribune newspaper, was on August 14, 2014, handed a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of FCFA one million (equivalent to US$ 2,200) for publishing false news.
He was also ordered to publish the court’s decision in four newspapers in the country.
The La Tribune newspaper on August 11, carried a front-page story titled “5 cases of Ebola in Senegal”. The report is said to have caused panic among the Senegalese people and annoyed the authorities, including the Minister of Health, Eva Marie Coll Seck.
According to MFWA’s correspondent, the state prosecutor, took up the matter and had the journalist summoned. He was kept in police custody and then later placed under a committal order on August 12.
In a press communiqué, the Ministry of Justice, said the information published by the newspaper could have extremely serious repercussions for Senegal. “This information can place our country in quarantine by the international community and seriously affect Senegalese desirous of travelling, particularly at a time when people are busy preparing for the pilgrimage to Mecca.”
N’zalé is said to have apologised to the court at the trial. ‘I’m sorry, I regret the act. I acknowledge that the information is false,” he said.
The journalist is also said to have admitted to the court that he did not crosscheck his information before publishing because he trusted his source.
The MFWA is calling on journalists to be professional in their work. We urge them to be a source of public education on the disease instead of causing panic with false information.