A blogger freed, but press freedom still threatened
Is Mohamed Ould El-Ghazaouani, who was elected president in 2019, going to end Mauritania’s constant fall in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index? A few days after Ghazaouani took office, the blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed Mkhaitir was finally released after being held for five and a half years. He should have been freed in 2017, when the death sentence he received for apostasy following his arrest in January 2014, was finally commuted to two years in prison. Instead he remained in detention, often incommunicado, without any access to his family and lawyers. His release did not, however, suffice to reassure Mauritanians about respect for press freedom. A few weeks before his release, several journalists critical of the government were arrested and the Internet was disconnected for 11 days during the presidential election. Fear of reprisals makes most journalists censor themselves when covering such subjects as corruption, the military, Islam or slavery, which still exists in Mauritania. A foreign journalist who was investigating slavery, a subject that is completely off limits, was expelled in March 2018. It was the second such case in the space of a year. Financial pressure is used to reinforce censorship. In October 2017, the authorities suspended five privately-owned TV and radio stations for allegedly failing to pay overdue taxes.
94 in 2019
31.65 in 2019