Mauritania: court sentences blogger over comments on social media

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) calls on the authorities in Mauritania to release blogger Mohamed Vall Abdallah and drop all the charges against him.

On November 18, 2023, the Mauritanian police arrested Abdallah following a Facebook post he made advocating for the overthrow of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. Abdallah promptly removed the post and issued an apology, clarifying that he viewed it as an unintentional insult to the president. Despite his apology, the blogger was detained.

On December 7, 2023, the criminal division of the Nouakchott West court sentenced Abdallahi to one year of suspended imprisonment, coupled with a fine of one million ouguiyas (about USD25284). Abdallah was arraigned for “offensive and insulting the person of the President of the Republic.”

This legal action against Abdallah occurred in the context of a law enacted in November 2021, designed to safeguard national symbols and criminalize offenses against the state and citizens. The law which aims at curbing activities that might undermine national unity, national sovereignty, and the authority of the state, is actively being enforced to repress free speech in the country.

While the social media post by Abdallah was reckless, the fact that the activist deleted it almost immediately, shows that he is sensitive to public interest. His detention for weeks and subsequent conviction nonetheless raises pertinent questions about freedom of expression and the limits imposed on dissenting voices in Mauritania. While the MFWA calls on Mauritanian citizens and media professionals to exercise caution and professionalism in their publications, we also call on the authorities to reconsider their decision and spare the activist the one-month prison term, given his show of remorse and the fact that he has already spent almost a month in pre-trial detention.

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