Senegalese journalist to be tried for insulting police officer

Calling for the withdrawal of all charges against Pape Malick Thiam, a TV reporter due to appear in court tomorrow in Dakar on a charge of insulting a police officer, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges those in charge of the Senegalese security forces to prioritise dialogue with journalists amid a surge in threats and attacks against media personnel.

A reporter for the privately-owned 7TV channel, Thiam was arrested during an altercation with a policeman at a court in Dakar on 14 April, when he want to cover a hearing with conflicting witness testimony in the case of Ousmane Sonko, an opposition politician accused of raping a massage salon employee. Thiam spent 24 hours in police custody before being released pending trial.

7TV director Maimouna Ndour Faye told media outlets that, while in custody, Thiam was beaten and mistreated by the gendarmes who had arrested him and that he lost in his glasses in the skirmish. Thiam’s lawyer told RSF that Thiam subsequently signed a statement under pressure “without even reading it.”

Senegalese media reports in February revealing that a massage salon employee had accused Sonko of rape triggered major social and political unrest in Senegal, and a wave of attacks against several media outlets.

“No matter how sensitive the Sonko case may be, it cannot keep serving as a pretext for the worst attacks against media and journalists that Senegal has seen in recent years,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “Dialogue must be prioritised if Senegal wants to continue to enjoy a free and independent press, one with journalists who fear neither for their physical integrity nor for their freedom. And those responsible for reprehensible acts against journalists must be punished, otherwise these acts will only continue.”

The violence against journalists unleashed by February’s unrest continues to take its toll. The latest victims include Ousmane Kane, a reporter for state radio and TV broadcaster RTS in the northern city of Louga, who was attacked by personnel in a Louga hospital on 15 April when he went to cover the case a young women who died for lack of medical care as she was about to give birth, causing a nationwide outcry.

Kane told RSF that, when he went to interview a birth assistant at the hospital, personnel insulted and manhandled him inside the hospital, breaking both of his phones and his glasses and taking his equipment. The Louga journalists’ collective has filed a complaint against his attackers at the city’s police headquarters.

Pape Ndiaye, a journalist with the Walf Fadjri press group, was subjected to insults and threats in early March, receiving around 20 voice messages and calls – some of them sent from abroad – after a programme in which he spoke about the case of the young masseuse. RSF has had access to the list of calls with clearly identified telephone numbers and to a string of voice messages insulting and threatening Ndiaye.

RSF calls on the Senegalese authorities to do everything possible to ensure that the many cases of threats of violence and attacks against journalists in recent months are properly investigated in order to avoid an escalation into more serious attacks.

Senegal is ranked 47th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Mise à jour le 19.04.2022