Senegal’s media are very diverse but this is offset by the fact that news coverage tends to be heavily politicised, especially in newspapers.
Senegal has at least 27 daily newspapers, more than 20 general-interest and community radio stations, and around 20 TV channels. The online press is also highly developed, as well as TV news channels on the internet. The privately owned media provide a platform to all the political parties, but the state-owned, national TV broadcaster focuses on the activities of the parties that make up the ruling coalition. The radio and TV stations owned by Futurs Médias and D-Média are the most popular in the capital, Dakar. Newspapers have low circulation and, for the most part, are distributed only in Dakar.
Senegal’s solid democracy and laws guarantee press freedom. Most of the privately owned media try, independently, to expose or to cover any governmental mismanagement and to stimulate political debate. The president continues to have the power to appoint the members of High Authority for Broadcast Communication Regulation (HARCA), leading media critics to question this regulator’s neutrality.
Despite the existing legal framework that tends to support journalists in the pursuit of their profession, journalists and media outlets are worried because basic press offences continue to be punishable by imprisonment under the press code adopted in 2017. And the lack of an access to information law continues to prevent journalists from accessing state-held information.
Apart from the state media and a few privately owned press groups, almost all of Senegal’s media lack an effective business model. Newspaper sales do not cover operating costs, state aid is insufficient and advertising is poorly distributed, with much of it going to the state media.
Because of cultural and religious constraints, coverage of LGBTI issues continues to be difficult for journalists and sometimes elicits violent reactions and vilification. Covering news stories with a religious dimension also sometimes causes tension and even violence.
Violence against journalists is relatively rare in Senegal but 2021 saw a surge in verbal and physical violence without precedent in recent years. In February 2021, the daily newspaper Les Echos and its director were subjected to harassment on social media after it reported that a massage parlour employee had accused opposition politician Ousmane Sonko of rape. After Sonko’s arrest in March, rioters attacked and ransacked the premises of several media outlets, including the Futurs Médias radio and TV stations, and took equipment. They also inflicted a great deal of damage on the headquarters of the national daily Le Soleil.