Senegalese President grants tax amnesty to the media in bridge-building efforts

The MFWA warmly welcomes President Macky Sall’s decision on March 18, 2024, to absolve Senegal’s media outlets of their tax debts, estimated at over 40 billion CFA francs. Additionally, the President declared a reduction in the monthly license fee for television and radio stations.

This decision, taken in September 2020, was signed into policy during a meeting with the media umbrella organisation, Conseil des diffuseurs et éditeurs de presse du Sénégal (CDEPS),  where representatives emphasised the pivotal role of the media in promoting political stability, pandemic response, and socio-economic development. They equally stressed the necessity of economic viability to uphold media independence.

The cancellation of press debts is part of efforts to ease political tensions in Senegal. A week earlier, the authorities sanctioned the release of dozens of people including demonstrators, political leaders and activists who had been detained as the country came close to implosion.

The troubles began with the arrest of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko amidst suspicions that President Macky Sall was planning to stand for a third term in office. The crisis reached a boiling point when the government postponed presidential elections that were supposed to have been held in February.

Among the high-profile detainees who were released were Ousmane Sonko and his protégé, independent presidential candidate Bassirou Diomaye Faye. The two were pardoned on March 14, 2024. Other prisoners were released on March 18, 2024, all as part of this peace-building process.

On March 6, 2024, to facilitate national reconciliation and achieve political harmony, the Senegalese parliament adopted an amnesty bill introduced by President Sall. This bill, which received the majority of votes in parliament (94 in favour, 49 against, and 3 abstentions), aims to pacify the political and social arena following a period of turmoil, particularly sparked by the postponement of the presidential election.

While the authorities say the law is necessary to heal wounds and reconcile the nation, it has been widely criticised as a monument of impunity. Human rights defenders point to the several police brutalities and demand accountability for them.

The MFWA welcomes the tax amnesty granted the media and the release of political prisoners as Senegal seeks to restore peace and national cohesion. We hope the country will cement the peace-building process with peaceful and credible elections on March 24. In particular, we urge all actors to help ensure a conducive atmosphere for media coverage, while trusting that the media will do its job with utmost professionalism.

Finally, we urge the authorities to keep the internet on.

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