Mauritania ALERT: Newspaper seized

Mauritania’s Ministry of Interior, Posts and Telecommunications has seized the entire print run of the May 8, 2002 edition (Issue No. 45) of the ESSAHIVA newspaper – an Arabic Language weekly.

Although no specific item in the publication was complained about, the seizure notice, which was served on phone, cited a July 25, 1991 Law on Press Freedom in Mauritania to justify its action. Article 11 of the said law provides in part, that “The circulation, dissemination or sale … of newspapers or periodicals … likely to undermine the principles of Islam or the image of the State, to harm the public good, to compromise public order and security, whatever the language in which it is written, may be banned by an order from the Ministry of the Interior.”

According to Yahya Ould Hamoud, editor-in-chief of the paper, the Ministry’s action was probably related to a story carried by the publication in reference, about the death of a Mauritanian cross-border drug dealer. The story, which also carried an accompanying picture illustration of the corpse, alleged that the victim was killed by Senegalese customs officials on the border between the two countries.

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns this use of state power to suppress press freedom and the right of the public in Mauritania to be informed. The MFWA appeals to the government of President Maaouiya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya to refrain from acts that tend to undermine media rights and freedom of expression in the country.

The MFWA is urging you to protest the seizure of the ESSAHIVA publication.

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