Mauritania ALERT: Another newspaper publication seized

The Ministry of the Interior, Posts and Telecommunications has seized Issue No. 219 of August 19, 2002, of EL QALEM, an Arab-language weekly.

Although no official explanation was given, the Ministry, once again, referred to Article 11 of Act 91-023 as the basis for the seizure. Article 11 of the July 25, 1991 Law on Press Freedom in Mauritania, empowers the Ministry of Interior to ban publications considered “likely to undermine the principles of Islam or the image of the State, to harm the public good, to compromise public order and security.”

Since the promulgation of that law, questions of Islam, slavery and human rights in Mauritania have become arcane subjects, which the press treat at their own risk and peril. According to Riadh Ould Mohamed Elhadi, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, the Ministry’s seizure action may in fact, have been related to an article published in the said issue, which did a critique of political Islam.

The MFWA strongly condemns the seizure of the EL QALEM newspaper. We also reiterate our call for a repeal of the 1991 press law, which the Ministry of Interior, Posts and Telecommunications in Mauritania has routinely evoked to censor and clamp down on unpopular speeches and publications in the country. The MFWA requests you to please protest against this repressive press law in Mauritania.

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