Blogger detained as Mauritania continues to tighten the noose on bloggers

Abderrahmane Ould Weddady, a Mauritanian blogger, has been charged by the public prosecutor at the regional court of Nouakchott West, following defamation and slander complaints by a writer, Aziza Mint Barnaoui. The complaint is in respect of a publication on Facebook by the blogger.

The Vice President of the Mauritanian Journalists Union Aziz Ould Souvi said in a tweet that the union has pressed the writer to accept an amicable settlement but in vain.

This is not Abderrahmane Weddady’s first run-in with the law. On March 22, 2019, he was arrested together with Cheikh Ould Jiddou by the Economic Crimes Unit and detained at the central prison in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott on grounds of ‘malicious accusation’. Their national ID cards and passports were also seized by the authorities.

In recent times the Mauritanian authorities have embarked on a vigorous fight against alarming publications online by journalists. Weddady’s recent troubles come less than a month after another blogger Hamda Ould Oubeidallah was sent to prison in Nouadhibou on October 26, on charges of “insult, slander and incitement via social networks.” The charges for which Oubeidallah was sent to the central prison relate to a series of live videos the blogger posted on his Facebook page in which he severely criticised the government.

Earlier on October 11, 2021, the judicial police summoned Mokhtar Ould Babtah, the publisher of the website Al-Shorouk Media, and questioned him, following a complaint filed by the director of “Maaden Mauritania” a private company.

After an interrogation of more than an hour, Babtah was released with an order to return for further questioning on October 13. On this day, a delegation of the Union of Journalists of Mauritania went to the police station to show solidarity with their colleague.

Back in August, Néma, a blogger and activist Mohamed Boumenih was arrested, without the police giving details on the reasons for this arrest. The arrest of the activist in the early afternoon of August 31, 2021 in Nema, capital of Hodh Charghi district, came after he published a post on his Facebook page in which he lamented about the non-existence of the state today, and expressed the desire for which requires the rapid intervention of the military to put an end to what he called a failing regime.

On July 12, 2021, a social media activist, Neny Ould Ahmed Ould Kerkoub appeared before an investigating magistrate who placed him under a detention warrant in the civil prison of Nouakchott. The public prosecutor’s office of the West Nouakchott region accused the activist of undermining national unity.  The charge against Ould Kerkoub came a few days after he was arrested by the police and taken into custody for having signed and disseminated on social media platforms, Whatsapp and Facebook, a statement calling for the secession of northern Mauritania.

The Media Foundation for West Africa is extremely concerned about the increasing cases of arrest, detention, interrogation and other acts of harassment of bloggers by the Mauritanian authorities. We urge public figures in Mauritania to be tolerant of criticism from journalists and activists. In this respect, we call on the authorities to release Weddady, given that his offense, if any, is amenable to civil proceedings that should not involve detention.

Meanwhile, there is evidence of overenthusiastic social media publications by bloggers and social media activists in Mauritania. We, therefore, urge bloggers and journalists to ensure that their posts do not violate the rights of individuals or cause public nuisance.

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