Mauritania ALERT: Publication seized

The Ministry of Interior, Posts and Telecommunications, on Tuesday September 23, 2003, seized Issue No. 80 of the Essahifa, an Arabic-language newspaper.

Authorities at the Ministry claimed that the action was in keeping with Article 11 of the 1991 Law on Press Freedom in Mauritania, Act 91-023, which allows for the seizure, “by order of the Ministry of Interior”, of publications that may be 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.”

According to Yahya Ould Hamoud, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, the Ministry provided no further explanation for the seizure of the publication. However, Hamoud told Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) that the publication in question had carried three different stories that could, conceivably, provide the pretext for the Ministry’s clampdown: one on a Mauritanian opposition politician in exile; another on the soldiers suspected of being responsible for the June 8, 2003 attempted coup on the Taya government; and the third on an Islamic activist arrested in May this year and freed at the end of August.

The frequent application of the 1991 anti-media and anti-freedom of expression law by the Ministry of Interior is an ever-present threat to the growth of media plurality and the expression of alternative views in Mauritania. MFWA appeals to the government of Prresident Maaouiya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya to urgently repeal the repressive media law in Mauritania and allow for the free expression of opinions in the country.

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