The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the arrest, detention and subsequent indictment of journalist Pape Alé Niang, director of the privately-owned news website, DakarMatin. We urge the Senegalese authorities to release the journalist unconditionally and drop all charges against him.
On November 9, 2022, the judicial authorities granted the police authorization to keep Niang in detention after indicting him. The journalist had already spent three days in detention before the indictment.
The journalist is prosecuted for revealing information likely to harm national defence, possessing administrative and military documents, and disseminating false news likely to discredit public institutions, according to the authorities.
Famous in Senegal for his regular columns on current affairs, Niang was arrested on the orders of the public prosecutor, Amady Diouf. The prosecutor said Niang has repeatedly made unfounded allegations against the defence and security forces for some time and that the journalist has also been attacking the country’s defence establishment.
The accusations relate to a November 3, 2022, publication by the journalist in which he alleged that the military had tampered with the outcome of their investigations into rape allegations against Ousmane Sonko, a top politician.
“He is accused of disclosing information of a military nature without authorisation of the military and information likely to harm national defence. In addition, he is accused of acts that are likely to disturb public order, to create disturbances that could hinder the normal functioning of institutions and finally of breaching professional secrecy,” explains Esq. Ciré Clésdor Ly, Pape Alé Niang’s lawyer, who also denounces a blatant infringement on press freedom and freedom of expression.
According to Pierre Aloba Diémé, a journalist with DakarMatin, who spoke to the MFWA on phone, Pape Niang was arrested in town without an arrest warrant on November 6, 2022, and taken into custody the same day at the Dakar central police station.
Niang’s arrest has provoked indignation among the majority of the press in Senegal and organisations defending journalists’ rights. The Coordination of Press Associations (CAP) and the Syndicat des professionnels de l’information et de la communication du Sénégal (SYNPICS), MFWA’s partner in Senegal, have expressed full support for the journalist.
The MFWA joins media organisations in Senegal to demand the immediate release of the journalist who should not have been detained. We urge the Senegalese authorities to abide by the country’s constitution which guarantees press freedom.
The allegations by journalists can be challenged with a rejoinder or reported to the media regulator for a determination. To summarily declare a publication as false news and, therefore, deem it a crime and proceed to punish the author is an abuse of power.
We, therefore, call on the Senegalese authorities to ensure that journalists and all media outlets in Senegal can carry out their work free from intimidation, harassment and any alienation of their fundamental right to freedom of expression and press freedom.