Senegal: authorities must release journalist Aliou Sané

Freedom of expression is facing severe test in Senegal, as the authorities continue to repress dissenting voices. The recent arrest of journalist and activist, Aliou Sané, illustrates the Macky Sall regime’s determination to trample on freedom of expression, which has traditionally been one of Senegal’s prized democratic laurels.

Arrested for the second time on October 5, 2023, in front of his house by Dakar Central Police’s urban security force, Sané was taken to Reubeuss prison in Dakar. This followed a decision by the indictment chamber of the Dakar High Court on July 25, 2023, which invalidated the provisional release granted Sané earlier.

Despite a peaceful march organised on October 27, 2023 by freedom of expression and human rights organisations to demand Sané’s release, there has been no positive outcome.

Sané is a human rights defender and an experienced journalist. He co-founded the movement, “Y’en a marre” which advocates for freedom of expression, information, and association in Senegal. The movement represents youth advocacy and protests against poor governance in Senegal.

The activist was first arrested on May 29, 2023 on charges of taking part in an unauthorized demonstration and disturbing public order. He was granted provisional release on June 4, 2023.

Sané’s re-arrest adds to a series of arrests of journalists and civil society actors like Pape Ale Niang, Pape Babacar Touré, and Oustaz Seck. Others have been detained for expressing opinions on social media, with at least one person prosecuted for fundraising for PASTEF.

A concerning pattern emerges with many detainees linked to Ousmane Sonko’s political party, PASTEF-Les Patriotes, or sympathizers. Key party figures, including the National Secretary and Communication Officer, have been imprisoned.

Religious leaders, civil society actors, and individuals critical of the Macky Sall government’s heavy-handed approach in the Sonko case have not been exempt from arrests and detentions. While the legitimacy of these actions may be debated, the government’s systematic suppression of Sonko, his party members, and independent voices critical of its tactics is undeniably having a detrimental impact on the civic space.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the continued detention of Aliou Sané and calls for his unconditional release. We demand that all those arrested and detained for criminal defamation be released immediately. We equally call on the government to end all liberticidal activities and restore the civic space to the free, open and tolerant one that it ought to be.

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