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Police raid newspaper printing house, harass newspaper, interrogate editor over critical article; minister allegedly threatens reporter

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 4 August 2008 IFJ media release:

The IFJ Calls on Senegal to End Intimidation of Media

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Senegalese authorities to put an end to the attacks on media and independent journalists and to build a new relationship with journalists. The call comes after a police raid of a printing house to prevent distribution of the newspaper L'As and the interrogation of the paper's publisher.

On Thursday, Mamadou Thierno Talla, L'As Director, was summoned by the Division of Criminal Investigations (DIC) over publication of an article concerning the Minister for Justice. Some hours later, during the night, the police force went to the printing house to stop publication of the newspaper. The following day, the police repeated the same attempt, but without success, at the buildings of another newspaper, Le Populaire.

"We condemn this intimidation by the police; they are flagrant violations of press freedom," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of Africa Office of the IFJ. "We call on the Government to put an end to these attacks on journalists. Journalists are trying to do their job professionally and peacefully and should be supported."

According to the IFJ, there has been over the last few weeks a number of disturbing press freedom violations in Senegal.

On Saturday 21 June 2008, two journalists, Boubacar Campbell Dieng and Karamokho Thioune, of Radio Futurs Media and the West Africa Democracy Radio respectively, were physically attacked by police after a football match between Senegal-Liberia at the Léopold Sédar Senghor stadium in Dakar, in an area where media were allowed to interview the players. Despite appeals, no action was taken against those responsible.

According to the daily newspaper Walf Grand Place, the Minister for the craft industry and air transport, Mr. Farba Senghor, issued death threats to a Walf TV journalist following a question in relation to his private life during a broadcast on Thursday evening.

The IFJ says the current tension demonstrates the need for the government of Senegal to come to terms with the scrutinizing role of media. "It's essential in a modern democracy," said Baglo. As a start, the IFJ says Senegal must act to end impunity and to decriminalise defamation laws so media can work more independently.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 114 countries worldwide.

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