December 23, 2015 - Updated on March 8, 2016

President “insulted” by talk of bribes

Surprised by the summons of four D-Média group executives and journalists in the past few days in Senegal, which has reputation for respecting media freedom and pluralism, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reminds the authorities that the media must be free to cover all stories, including corruption allegations. Are some subjects off limits in Senegal? The usually relaxed climate for journalists has become much more tense since a recent report in the French daily Le Monde about the alleged use of bribes for illegal political funding. Discussion of these allegations on D-Média outlets did not please the authorities, who are accusing them of “insulting the president.” The first to be arrested was D-Média CEO Massamba Mbaye, whose outlets include the daily newspaper La Tribune, Sen TV and Radio Zik FM. The police interrogated him at length on 19 December and summoned him for further questioning on 21 December. Three of Mbaye’s employees – Sen TV head of programming Ndèye Astou Guèye, presenter Mamadou Mansour Diop and reporter Pape Bess Diba – were also questioned on 21 December and were told to remain available to the judicial authorities. The arrests were prompted by discussions on Sen TV and Zik FM on 18 December of a Le Monde report that Lamine Diack, the Senegalese former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, confessed to a Senegalese anti corruption body that he solicited bribes from Russians officials and used the money to fund opposition election campaigns in Senegal in 2009 and 2012. The police raided Sen TV on 19 December and asked to seize the recordings of all the programmes broadcast between 2 pm and 5 pm the previous day. They also said they wanted to arrest Diop for “prejudicial comments insulting the president.” “We are not used to such authoritarian measures in Senegal, measures that send a threatening message to all the media and encourage self-censorship,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “The charges of insulting the president are out of all proportion. The questions posed by the journalists were, it is true, disconcerting but must be regarded as part and parcel of a legitimate public debate. We call for the withdrawal of all the charges against them so that they can continue to cover developments freely.” Media freedom violations directly affecting journalists have been relatively infrequent in recent years in Senegal. But the authorities keep a close rein on independent media and parliament continues to refuse to approve a bill decriminalizing media offences that has sat in drawer for the past five years. Senegal is ranked 71st out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Photo: Mamadou Mansour Diop,