MFWA welcomes release of Pape Ale Niang, demands charges be dropped

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release of Pape Ale Niang from detention and urges the Senegalese authorities to drop all charges against the journalist.

The managing editor of the online newspaper, Dakar Matin was released provisionally on December 14, 2022, after his lawyers’ application to that effect was granted by the court, according to Moussa Sarr, one of his lawyers. The journalist is, however, under judicial control and must report regularly to the authorities.

“The arrest and detention of Pape Ale Niang for over one month for exercising his profession as a journalist was unfair in the first place. To commit a journalist who has not been convicted to one month in jail over a critical publication would be concerning even in an autocratic regime. To do so in democratic Senegal is shocking and regressive,” Muheeb Saeed, Head of Freedom of Expression at the MFWA.

Pape Alé was arrested on November 6, 2022, on false publication and national security charges after he published a story in which he cited military sources. The journalist referenced a document that indicated that a military investigation had cleared a leading politician who is standing trial for rape.

Niang’s detention drew uproar from the media fraternity in Senegal which mobilised massively to demand the journalist’s release. With financial support from the MFWA and moral support from our Board Chair who is also based in Dakar, the media professional organisation, Coordination des Associations de Presse (CAP), set up the Comite pour la liberation de Pape Ale Niang (Committee for the Release of Pape Niang). The Committee organised a series of demonstrations to condemn the journalist’s arrest and demand his freedom.

The MFWA run also a social media campaign for Niang’s release and sent petitions to a number of UN bodies, Africa Union and ECOWAS leaders.

“The journalist is on hunger strike and his health is failing. Consequently, we are requesting your intervention with the authorities in Senegal to help secure the release of the journalist to prevent further abuse of his rights and a possible fatal outcome,” the MFWA wrote in its petition to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Ms Irene Khan, the Director General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Volker Türk.

The MFWA also petitioned the AU Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information; the Chairperson of the AU Commission; the Chairperson of the Africa Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), alongside the ECOWAS Chairman and the President of the ECOWAS Commission. A similar petition was also addressed to the Ambassador and Head of the European Union delegation in Senegal as well as France, United States and United Kingdom Ambassadors in Senegal.

We are therefore excited about the release of the journalist who should not have been arrested in the first place. We urge the authorities in Senegal to drop all charges against Pape Niang and take measures to address the growing threat to the safety of journalists in Senegal. We commend our partners in Senegal for the great collaboration and the resolute mobilisation in support of the journalist and in defense of press freedom.

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