Senegal: Media outlet attacked for reporting on Coronavirus

ARTICLE 19 today condemned the attack on the offices of the newspaper “Les Echos” on Monday 3 August 2020 by assailants, who have also destroyed some of the newspaper’s equipment.                                                                                                                                                                       

Fatou Jagne Senghore, Regional Director of ARTICLE 19 Senegal and West Africa, expressed her deep concern about this incident:

“We are disappointed and strongly condemn such acts of violence against a media outlet during this very crucial time when everyone needs information about the Coronavirus pandemic. The media play a crucial role in publishing accurate information on the virus and in informing people on how to protect themselves.

Journalists take health risks in order to do their work. They should never be the target of violence. These acts of violence are a serious threat to press freedom, freedom of expression and the safety and protection of journalists.”

The attack happened after the newspaper had revealed in an article that the religious leader of the Mouchtarchidines, Serigne Moustapha Sy, had tested positive for Coronavirus. His followers reportedly did not approve of the publication of this information. The police are currently investigating the attack and have arrested a number of suspects.

A pattern of Coronavirus related attacks against the media in Senegal

The attack against “Les Echos” Newspaper is the fourth in a series of violence against media professionals and their properties since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in Senegal. On 24 June, a cameraman from 7 TV was brutally assaulted by unknown people while doing his work. In the night of 2 June, demonstrators destroyed buildings of Radio Futurs Médias in Mbacké while protesting the curfew and the restrictions introduced as part of the state’s response to the health emergency. On the first day after the declaration of the state of emergency in March 2020, an unspecified number of citizens were assaulted by the police, including two journalists while doing their work in Touba. No one has been held accountable for these attacks.                                                         

“We welcome the arrest of suspects of the attack against “Les Echos” by the Gendarmerie. This is a first step. We call on the authorities to also investigate the other attacks and bring to justice those suspected. It is crucial that the authorities take all necessary measures to protect media outlets and prevent further attacks,” reiterated Fatou Jagne Senghore

The media and journalists must be able to do their work without fearing for their safety. Anyone who disagrees with a publication, can demand a right of response or use any legal means as provided in the press law to challenge the information.  

International human rights laws and standards require states to prevent, prohibit and address crimes against journalists. The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa affirms that “States shall guarantee the safety of journalists and other media practitioners” and “take measures to prevent attacks on journalists and other media practitioners”. It further states: “States shall take effective legal and other measures to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of attacks against journalists and other media practitioners, and ensure that victims have access to effective remedies.”

Senegal must do more to ensure the safety and independence of the media and journalists, who have an essential role to play in the national effort to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.

For more information, please contact:

Eliane NYOBE, Senior Programme Assistant, ARTICLE 19 West Africa at: 221 33 869 03 22.

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