Senegal: MFWA demands immediate lifting of suspension of Walf TV

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) finds repressive and untenable the suspension of Walf TV by the Conseil national de régulation de l’audiovisuel (CNRA), and urges the audio-visual broadcast regulator in Senagal to reverse the decision.

The CNRA suspended Walf TV on February 10, 2023 for seven days accusing the station of violating the code of ethics by showing scenes of violence. The TV station was covering live a protest march by supporters of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko which witnessed violent clashes with security agents. The authorities had banned the rally scheduled for Mbacké (a city in central Senegal, 190 km east of Dakar) and the security forces tried to interpose themselves between Ousmane Sonko’s delegation which was travelling from Touba (also a city in central Senegal part of Mbacké district) to the rally grounds.

As the scenes were being beamed live by Walf TV, the CNRA cut the channel’s signal. The regulator cited “irresponsible coverage of the demonstration exposing adolescents to violent scenes, accompanied by dangerous speeches including those made by reporters, in total violation of the law.”

The MFWA strongly contests the decision of the regulators and demands the immediate restoration of Walf TV’s signal.

“Protests by political party supporters always have a chance of recording some violent incidents. Must there be a law to expressly ban live coverage of potentially violent protests? Must the media be obliged to stop live coverage of events the moment they turn violent? Does the public not need to know how the violence started, who were the perpetrators and the victims? How does bringing this vital information to the public in real time constitute an infraction? These are the questions the CNRA must answer,” said Muheeb Saeed, Programme Manager for freedom of Expression at the MFWA.

Reacting to the suspension, Ibrahima Lissa Faye, president of online journalists’ association told the media said it is a decision that is not justified because Walf TV did not commit any mistakes or errors. “They simply covered a live activity that was taking place in Mbacké. I think that the information is of public interest. So, there is no problem.” He added.  

The Management of the station have decided to appeal the decision and seek the immediate return to the airwaves of their TV channel. They are also formally demanding the resignation of Babacar Diagne, president of the CNRA.

In a press release, the Wal Fadjri media group said it plans to hold a sit-in on February 17, 2023 in front of the group’s offices. On February 18, 2023 another sit-in will be organised in front of the CNRA premises to press the call for Diagne’s resignation. The campaign will be rounded off on February 19, 2023, with a rally at the independence square (Place de l’Indépendance) to condemn the decline in democracy and press freedom in Sénégal.

The MFWA expresses its total support and solidarity with Walf TV and demands the lifting of its suspension. The station is the source of information for over a million people in Sénégal and the arbitrary suspension of the media house violates the right to information of its large viewers.

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