Calling for the withdrawal of all charges against Pape Malick Thiam, a television journalist who is due to appear in Dakar court tomorrow for insulting a police officer, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) urges the leaders of the Senegalese security forces to favor dialogue with journalists amid an upsurge in threats and attacks against media personnel.
A private company journalist 7TV channel, Thiam was arrested during an altercation with a policeman outside a Dakar court on April 14, when he wanted to cover a hearing with conflicting testimony in the case of Ousmane Sonko, an opposition politician accused of raping an employee of a massage parlour. Thiam spent 24 hours in police custody before being released pending trial.
7TV Director Maimouna Ndour Faye told the media that while in police custody Thiam was beaten and ill-treated by the gendarmes who arrested him and that he lost his glasses in the skirmish. Thiam’s lawyer told RSF that Thiam later signed a statement under pressure “Without even reading it.
Senegalese media reports in February revealing that a massage parlor employee had accused Sonko of rape sparked major social and political unrest in Senegal and a wave of attacks on several media outlets.
“As sensitive as the Sonko affair is, it cannot continue to be used as a pretext for the worst attacks against the media and journalists that Senegal has seen in recent years”, says Sadibou Marong, director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “Dialogue must be a priority if Senegal wants to continue to enjoy a free and independent press, with journalists who fear neither for their physical integrity nor for their freedom. And those responsible for wrongdoings against journalists must be punished, or those wrongdoings will only continue.
The violence against journalists sparked by the February unrest continues to take its toll. Among the latest victims are Ousmane Kanejournalist for state radio and television RTS in the northern city of Louga, which was attacked by staff of a hospital in Louga on April 15 when he went to cover the case of a young woman who died due to lack of medical care as she was about to to give birth, causing a national outcry.
Kane told RSF that when he went to interview a birth attendant at the hospital, staff insulted and roughed him up inside the hospital, smashing both his phones and his glasses and taking away his equipment. . The group of Louga journalists lodged a complaint against their attackers at the city’s police headquarters.
Pope Ndiayejournalist at Walf Fadjri press group, was the subject of insults and threats at the beginning of March, receiving around twenty voice messages and calls – some of them from abroad – after a program in which he mentioned the case of the young masseuse . RSF had access to the list of calls with clearly identified telephone numbers and to a series 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 adequately 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.