Senegalese authorities must lift 30-day media outlet suspension – MFWA

Eight days after Senegal’s media regulator suspended Walf TV, the Minister for Communications, Telecommunications and the Digital Economy, has announced that the highly critical media outlet will remain closed for 30 days.

The minister announced this in an official statement on June 9, 2023, a decision that reinforced suspicions that the initial decision to cut the signal of the TV station was not independently taken.

The Ministry of Communication accused the channel of covering clashes between demonstrators and security forces after the sentencing of opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, to two years in prison for corrupting young people.

Specifically, the government alleged that the TV station broadcasted images of violence involving teenagers, accompanied by subversive, hateful and dangerous language that incite to violence and undermines state security, territorial integrity, stability and social peace.

The authorities based their decision on article 192 of the Senegalese Press Code. This article empowers the relevant administrative authorities to suspend or halt the broadcasting of any programme, or even shut down a media outlet to prevent or stop attacks on state security or territorial integrity, or incitement to hatred or murder.

Walf TV‘s signal was cut off on June 1, 2023, during demonstrations that broke out after the conviction of the main opposition leader Ousmane Sonko.

The management of the television channel claims that they only informed of the duration of the suspension on June 9, 2023.

The decision and duration of the suspension of Walf TV‘s programmes have shocked many in country, with some media professionals and political scientist denouncing spurious motives to stifle the media outlet.

Cheikh Niass, CEO of the media group, said that the incident could result in some job losses.

It is not the first time that Walf TV is suspended. The channel was suspended for a week on February 10, 2023, for broadcasting scenes of violent demonstrations. The media regulator, the Conseil national de régulation de l’audiovisuel (CNRA), alleged that the channel had provided irresponsible coverage of demonstrations in a town in the centre of the country.

In March 2021, the CNRA also suspended the channel’s programmes for three days, alleging that it had repeatedly broadcasted images of an unrest that sparked following the arrest of political opponent Ousmane Sonko.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the suspension of Walf TV, and calls on the authorities to lift the suspension. We express our solidarity with the media and demand the lifting of the suspension which deprives thousands of a vital access to information.

It is saddening to observe the deterioration of democracy and the shrinking of the civic space in Senegal. The country fell from 73rd place in 2022 to 104th place out of 180 in 2023 in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. At least two journalists have been arrested and imprisoned in less than a year for exercising their right to free expression.

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