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Two journalists sentenced to three months' imprisonment, publisher exonerated

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 16 June 2009, a magistrate's court in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, sentenced two journalists from the "Week-End", a privately-owned weekly magazine, to three months' imprisonment for defaming Aida Mbodji, second deputy speaker of the country's national assembly.

Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent reported that Papa Samba Diarra, managing editor of the magazine, and Mame Sèye Diop, a reporter, were also fined ten million CFA (approx. US$20,000) each.

The court said, however, that the sentence would not be enforced until the final determination of an appeal filed by the journalists' counsel.

The court acquitted and discharged Mamdiambal Diagne, general administrator of Groupe Avenir Communication, publishers of the "Week-End", who was also named in the case. Meanwhile, the plaintiff has expressed her intention to appeal if the court does not reconsider its decision to acquit Diagne.

During the proceedings, the prosecutor had requested a three-year jail term and an outrageous fine of 500 million CFA (approx. US$1,000,000) for each of the accused.

Mbodji initiated the legal action following the "Week-End"'s 8 to 14 August 2008 edition that accused her of being a dishonest politician.

The article ("The underhand dealings of Aida Mbodji"), written by Sèye Diop, said Mbodji, a former radical socialist in the administration of ex-President Abdou Diouf, had defected to the camp of the ruling party after the country's political changeover in 2000. The article chronicled the personal background of the deputy speaker.

The court ruled that the journalists failed to cross-check their facts with her.

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