ARTICLE 19 West Africa, Amnesty International Senegal, the Senegalese Human Rights League (LSDH), the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) and the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) Senegal are concerned by the judicial proceedings against the editors of the daily publications “L’Observateur” and “le Quotidien”
On 14 July 2015, the Chief Editor of the newspaper “L’Observateur”, Alioune Badara Fall, was arrested at the offices of Groupe Futurs Médias and remanded in custody at Colobane Criminal Investigations Department until being brought before the Public Prosecutor. His arrest was prompted by the publication on 8 May 2015 of an article written by the reporter Mamadou Seck. The title of the article in question was “Plan of the 2,100 soldiers for the war in Yemen: two Alpha and Bravo battle groups, two support groups” and it described in detail the plan to send 2,100 Senegalese soldiers to Saudi Arabia.
The incriminated article did not contain any sensitive information that could be classified as defence secrets or could undermine security as it merely stated the number, composition and distribution of the forces. The information in the article does not constitute a real and imminent threat to national security or the safety of the soldiers.
On 15 July, Messrs Fall and Seck were brought before the Public Prosecutor, at the same time as Mouhamed Guèye, the Chief Editor of the newspaper “Le Quotidien”.
On 10 June 2015, “Le Quotidien” published an article entitled “The truth about arrest reports”, which reproduced in its entirety the report on the arrest of the singer Thione Seck.
Thione Seck’s lawyers filed a complaint and Mouhamed Guèye was subsequently summoned by the Commander of Colobane Criminal Investigation Squad where he was held in custody from 14 to 15 July before he too was taken before the Public Prosecutor.
In the two cases mentioned, pressure was placed on the journalists to reveal their sources. That violates the right to protect journalistic sources, a fundamental pillar of media independence.
In the second case, even though professional precautions should have been taken with regard to publishing the full details of the interrogation report, the legal measures taken, particularly the deprivation of liberty, were disproportionate.
Journalists are subject to duties and responsibilities that do not allow them to put their sources in danger. Article 11 of the Senegalese Journalists’ Charter prohibits journalists from revealing their sources and requires them to “maintain professional secrecy and not disclose their sources of information to any authority whatsoever”.
Principle No. XV of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa reiterates the importance of protecting sources and other journalistic documents, specifying that “journalists must not be obliged to reveal their information sources or other documents held within the framework of performing their role as journalists, except where such disclosure is consistent with the principles of law provided for by the highest international standards“.
Moreover, the Senegalese Constitution guarantees and protects freedom of the press (Article 8 of the Constitution of 22 January 2001), which cannot be done if journalists are forced to reveal their sources.
ARTICLE 19 West Africa, Amnesty International Senegal, the Senegalese Human Rights League (LSDH), the African Assembly for the Defence of Human Rights (RADDHO) and the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) Senegal strongly condemn these interrogations and intimidations as they threaten freedom of expression and jeopardise the sacred principle of protecting the confidentiality of sources.
Ms Fatou JAGNE SENGHOR (ARTICLE 19 West Africa)
Mr Seydi GASSAMA (AI/SN)
Mr Assane Dioma NDIAYE (LSDH)
Mr Aboubacry MBODJI (RADDHO)
Ousseynou Faye (ISHR Senegal)