MFWA welcomes release of dissenting voices in Senegal, demands freedom for those still in detention

A court in Senegal’s capital Dakar granted a provisional release to journalist Pape Alé Niang on August 8, 2023. Niang, the director of the privately owned news site Dakar Matin, was released after his health deteriorated due to a 10-day hunger strike.

Niang’s release was widely welcomed in Senegal. He had been arrested for the third time on July 29, 2023, and was detained on charges of calling for insurrection and engaging in acts likely to undermine public security. His lawyer, Moussa Sarr, said that his client was arrested following a Facebook live he had posted after the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

Another journalist, Abdou Khadre Sakho of the news website Senego, was released on August 16, 2023, following the dismissal of his case. Sakho’s ordeal began on August 14, 2023, when he was arrested on charges of disseminating false news and engaging in acts and manoeuvres likely to bring institutions into disrepute.

The charges stemmed from an article he authored and published on Senego about “underground negotiations” with regards to the release of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko.

In a separate incident on May 29, 2023, Aliou Sané, the coordinator of the popular-citizen “Y’en A Marre”, a movement advocating for good governance in Senegal, was arrested while visiting Ousmane Sonko, who was under house arrest. Sané faced charges of taking part in an unauthorized demonstration, disorderly conduct, willful obstruction of free movement, as well as violence and assault on law enforcement officers. Sané also serves as vice-coordinator of “Forces vives 24 (F24)”, a coalition mobilized against Macky Sall’s potential bid for a third term.

Y’en A Marre denounced the arrest of its coordinator, affirming that Sané had not engaged in any violence against law enforcement officers, but had rather been subjected to brutal force by them. Aliou Sané was granted provisional release on June 2, 2023.

While welcoming the release of these two journalists and the activist, the MFWA is still concerned about the many other critical voices which have been silenced behind bars. One of them is journalist Ndèye Maty Niang, also known as Maty Sarr Niang, who has spent over two months in detention on charges including incitement of insurrection, violence, hatred, engaging in acts likely to undermine public security, contempt of court, and posing as a journalist.

Ndèye Maty Niang (not related to Pape Alé Niang), was arrested on May 16, 2023, at her residence by Urban Security officers of the judicial investigation unit. Her arrest was in connection with her reporting on the privately-owned website Kéwoulo as well as her criticism of Senegalese authorities on Facebook.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the dismissal of Sakho’s case and the provisional release of Pape Alé Niang and Aliou Sané. We strongly denounce the arbitrary arrest and detention of Maty Sarr Niang, and call on the judicial authorities to unconditionally release her and to drop all charges against the other citizens detained for voicing dissent.

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