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Leading journalist escapes murder attempt

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has voiced its outrage following a murder attempt against Mohamed Ould Zeine, editor of the independent Arab-language daily "El Wattan" and star presenter on Radio Mauritania.

The journalist was left for dead after being battered and slashed by two men wielding baseball bats and knives on the evening of 12 May 2009. He suffered a very serious injury to his left hand.

He was drawn into a trap just after finishing presenting the news on Radio Mauritania at about midnight (local time) by a call on his mobile phone from an unknown caller who said one of his friends needed help. Ould Zeine left the radio studios and headed to the national high school when he saw two men armed with baseball bats get out of a car and come towards him.

He immediately tried to turn back but his assailants caught him and beat him. He suffered serious injuries to his hands as he tried his best to protect his face. He also had his hands slashed with a knife. The attackers struck him on his legs and smashed his head against a wall, at which point Mohamed Ould Zeine fainted. Believing him dead, his assailants fled, leaving him with numerous bruises and a serious hand injury.

"Such a violent assault against a journalist is rare in Mauritania. The authorities should take this incident very seriously and carry out a rigorous investigation to find those responsible as quickly as possible," the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

"Unless this investigation produces real results, we will have reason to be seriously worried about how journalists can do their job of informing the public in safety in the run-up to presidential elections on 6 June that will be decisive for the Mauritanian people," it added.

Mohamed Ould Zeine has lodged an official complaint about the attack. Police, who said they do not know the motives or the identity of his alleged attackers, promised to do their utmost to find those responsible. Their job could be made easier if they were able to localise and identify the person who made the telephone call to the journalist through GSM tracking.

In a separate development, a reporter for Agence Nouakchott d'Information, Mamouni Ould Moctar, was manhandled by activists of the Rally of Democratic Forces (RFD) on 4 May after taking photos of a demonstration against the election schedule. The journalist also carried out an interview with the head of the RFD, Ahmed Ould Daddah, in which he revealed practical support being given by the US Embassy to political parties opposed to the ruling junta. He made a complaint and one of the activists was arrested.
Read the report on Mauritania published on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day
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