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Mauritanian journalists arrested for defamation and released after eight days

A Mauritanian soldier stands on duty during the African Union (AU) Summit in Nouakchott, 2 July 2018
A Mauritanian soldier stands on duty during the African Union (AU) Summit in Nouakchott, 2 July 2018

LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images

This statement was originally published on mfwa.org on 16 August 2018.

Two senior journalists arrested for alleged defamatory publications have been released after eight days in detention.

Babacar Baye N'diaye, the editor-in-chief and webmaster of the popular news website, Cridem, was arrested together with Mahmoudi Ould Saibout, Director of Publication of Taqadoum, also a news website, on August 8, 2018.

The arrests followed a defamation complaint by a France-based Mauritanian, Jemal Taleb Mohamed. The complaint relates to an article by the French online magazine Mondeafrique.com which was republished by the two media outlets.

The arrest of N'diaye is particularly disturbing because, following the complaint, his news website published an apology and retracted sections of the article which it recognised to be erroneous.

On August 10, the police searched the homes of the two as well as the offices of Cridem and took away computers. The journalists' handsets were also seized by the police.

The journalists were finally released on August 15, two days after the media fraternity held a sit-in protest at the premises of the criminal investigations department of the police.

"A simple summon would have been enough. They should have been invited to report to the police for questioning and allowed to return to their work to await their arraignment or otherwise," one of the protesting journalists, Mamadou Thiam, told Radio France International.

The MFWA welcomes the release of the journalists and condemns their aggressive arrest and arbitrary detention, as this could intimidate the media into self-censorship.

We call on the police to return the seized phones and computers of the journalists and commend the media fraternity in Mauritania for their solidarity.

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