RSF calls for Senegalese investigative reporter’s release

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns Senegalese investigative reporter Pape Alé Niang’s detention on disproportionate charges that include endangering national security, and calls on the authorities to free him at once and to protect press freedom.

After spending three days in police custody, Niang was transferred to prison yesterday (9 November) at the behest of a judge, who charged him with revealing information “likely to harm national defence,” “receiving confidential administrative and military documents” and disseminating “false news likely to discredit state institutions.”

“It is anachronistic to see a journalist in prison in a country like Senegal, which is regarded as one of Africa’s most stable democracies and has a diverse and flourishing media landscape. We call on the authorities to release Pape Alé Niang and to establish a dialogue with media professionals. The decriminalisation of press offences is still not effective in Senegal and this continues to be a problem. The laws regulating the media must be revised.”

Sadibou Marong, the head of RSF’s sub-Saharan Africa bureau

An investigative journalist who runs the Dakar Matin news site and is a member of the Norbert Zongo Cell for Investigative Journalism in West Africa (CENOZO), Niang often uses live-streamed videos to report news developments. A few days before his arrest on 6 November, he reported a development in the high-profile investigation into a young masseuse’s alleged rape by opposition politician Ousmane Sonko.

In a statement issued the day after Niang’s arrest, Senegal’s public prosecutor announced that he had “asked the police, in compliance with the requirements of freedom of the press, to open an investigation into this case,” adding that “repeated, unfounded and unacceptable attacks directed against the defence and security forces” had been observed “for some time.”

The armed forces minister meanwhile took it upon himself to emphasise that national defence secrecy was protected by strict legislation applicable to all citizens.

In an interview with RSF, one of Niang's lawyers, Ciré Clédor Ly, described the charges as a “mountain of nonsense.” RSF fears that the disproportionate charges could push other journalists to censor themselves and could discourage investigative reporting that serves the public's right to information. 

RSF therefore supports the calls by Senegal’s media associations for Niang’s release.

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