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Third journalist arrested in a month as government sets police on its press critics

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has called for the immediate release of Pape Amadou Gaye, the publisher of the privately-owned daily "Le Courrier du Jour", and said it would like an explanation for a sudden wave of arrests of journalists for "insulting the president." Detained by plain-clothes police on 1 November 2007, Gaye was charged and placed in pre-trial detention on 6 November.

"The authorities have obstinately refused to modernise press legislation and establish good relations with the media, but until now they not been in the habit of using the police to set traps for journalists and arrest them one after another," the press freedom organisation said.

"This development is puzzling and certainly does not offer a response to any problems the press might pose," Reporters Without Borders added. "This form of repression must stop at once and the authorities must provide an explanation for this sudden hostility towards small, privately-owned newspapers."

Gaye was arrested when a man arrived at his newspaper's office in a Dakar suburb at 7 p.m. (local time) on 1 November and asked to see him. The visitor was quickly joined by four members of the Criminal Investigation Division (DIC), who handcuffed Gaye and said they had been instructed to arrest him. Gaye was then taken to DIC headquarters and the newspaper was closed until further notice.

Gaye was charged on 6 November with "insulting the president, action liable to threaten state security and action liable to result in disobedience by the army" and could face trial before an assize court, Agence France-Presse was told by his lawyer, Clédor Ciré Ly.

The charges relate to an article blaming the government for price increases and problems in rural areas. Gaye wrote that "the army is the only sector that could get the authorities to change tack (. . .) and force the government to pull itself together and do what it is supposed to do."

Gaye is the third journalist to be arrested in less than a month. Moussa Guèye, the editor of the privately-owned daily "L'Exclusif", was arrested by DIC officers on 8 October and charged with insulting President Abdoulaye Wade and reporting "false information" because of an article about his "nocturnal escapades" (see IFEX alerts of 16 and 11 October 2007).

One of the newspaper's employees, Pape Moussa Doukar, was subsequently arrested on an unknown date after the police discovered that Guèye's newspaper has registered in his name. Both "L'Exclusif" and "Le Courrier du Jour" are small-circulation newspapers located in the Dakar suburbs.

Guèye and Doukar were scheduled to be questioned by an investigating judge on 6 and 7 November.

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