Mauritania ALERT: Newspaper publication seized

The Ministry of the Interior, Posts and Telecommunications has seized the May 30, 2002 edition of the ELRAIE, an Arabic weekly newspaper.

According to Ahmedou Guadia, editor-in-chief of ELRAIE, the publication was seized for allegedly infringing the 1991 law on Press Freedom in Mauritania, although no reference was made to any specific offending story. However, sources close to the paper informed MFWA-Mauritania that the Ministry’s action was probably based on an article the paper had published on the results of the referendum for constitutional reforms in Tunisia. The referendum proposes amendments that could make President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali president for life.

Article 11 of the July 25, 1991 press law, which provides that newspapers and other publications “may be banned by an order from the Ministry of the Interior”, has frequently been invoked to censor unpopular publications in the country. It would be recalled that less than a month ago, on May 8, the Ministry cited Article 11 when it ordered the seizure of entire print runs of the ESSAHIVA weekly newspaper. On each occasion, no specific charge was brought against the publication.

The MFWA strongly condemns the seizure of the ELRAIE newspaper. We also call for a repeal of the 1991 press law because it is nebulous and repressive, and therefore constitutes a threat to media freedom and free expression in Mauritania. The MFWA requests you to kindly protest the state of media rights in the country.

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