Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Senegalese authorities to react quickly and firmly to yesterday’s ransacking of the offices of a national daily by individuals angry about a report in that morning’s issue that a religious leader had just been hospitalized after testing positive to Covid-19. This attack must not go unpunished, RSF said.
The newsroom of Les Echos, a Dakar-based daily newspaper founded in 2018, was ransacked by people claiming to be followers of Serigne Moustapha Sy, the leader of an influential Sudi Muslim order in Senegal called Tidiane, who was the subject of a front-page story reporting that he had been “struck down by Covid-19” and had been admitted to Dakar’s main hospital.
“There’s just material damage,” Les Echos editor Mbaye Thiandoum told RSF. “My office has been ransacked. Eight computers and a TV set have been destroyed.” Thiandoum added that, just before the attack, he received a phone call from a supporter of Sy complaining about the story.
“Such an attack is unjustifiable in a country that respects the rule of law,” said Assane Diagne, the director of RSF’s West Africa office. “You don’t ransack a news organization because you dispute the accuracy of what it reported. We call on the Senegalese authorities to react firmly and quickly, so that this attack does not go unpunished.”
Diagne added: “The provision of news and information by journalists is more essential than ever during this worldwide pandemic. The authorities have a duty to protect them. Both the right to information and the right to health are at stake.”
Senegal is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index. Along with Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde, it is one of the few West African countries where the press freedom situation is regarded as fairly good.