RSF visits Senegalese journalist Pape Alé Niang in prison
Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), succeeded in visiting jailed Senegalese journalist Pape Alé Niang in a prison outside Dakar and afterwards called on Senegal’s president, Macky Sall, to return to the position he took when first elected, namely that no journalist would be jailed while he was president.
The meeting between Deloire and Niang, the editor of the Dakar Matin news website, took place on 1 December in the room for meetings between visitors and detainees at Sébikotane prison, 50 km east of the capital, Dakar. Ibrahima Lissa Faye and Mamadou Thior of Senegal’s Coordination of Press Associations (CAP) were also present.
Arrested on 6 November after reporting a development in the investigation into an alleged rape by opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, Niang was jailed three days later on charges of revealing information “likely to harm national defence,” “receiving confidential administrative and military documents” and disseminating “false news likely to discredit state institutions.”
Niang was an animated participant in the 1 December meeting, talking in an engaged and determined manner about his latest investigative reporting, which led to his imprisonment. If not released in the next few hours or days, he will soon complete his first month in detention.
Speaking outside the prison after visiting Niang, Christophe Deloire reminded President Sall of the undertakings he gave.
“We all remember that, when first elected, President Macky Sall formally announced that no journalist would be imprisoned in Senegal while he was in office,” Deloire said. “Macky Sall reiterated this commitment in my presence at the Paris Peace Forum on 11 November 2018. That day, at our initiative, he joined 11 other heads of state and government in launching the Partnership for Information and Democracy, a partnership to which 50 countries have now signed up, including, recently, the United States. We call on President Macky Sall to put an immediate end to this violation of press freedom principles. Senegal's international image, the president's responsibility to Senegalese citizens, and his legacy to history are all at stake.”
RSF, which plans to step up its advocacy work in the coming days, believes that Senegal should play a role as a regional model and that any deterioration in press freedom in this country will naturally have negative repercussions in other African countries. The area covered by RSF’s Dakar office, which is headed by Sadibou Marong, has just been extended to all of sub-Saharan Africa, more than 40 countries. Dakar’s appeal is naturally linked to the level of press freedom in Senegal, which fell 24 places in RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index – a fall attributable in part to the impact of non-state actors. A further fall could send the country into a very damaging negative spiral.