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NIGERIA: Police Involvement Suspected in Killing of Journalist
SENEGAL: Government Vehicle Seen in Attacks on Newsrooms

NIGERIA: Police Involvement Suspected in Killing of Journalist

Paul Abayomi Ogundeji, an editorial board member of the Lagos-based daily "ThisDay", was shot dead on 17 August 2008 in a Lagos suburb while driving home. Nigerian police say unidentified armed robbers who had earlier stolen another car ambushed and shot him, but his family and others suspect police involvement, says Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

"The Punch" and "Nigerian Compass" dailies reported that a witness saw men in police uniform at a roadblock stop Ogundeji and order him out. When he refused, a policeman shot him at close range. The victim?s family believes this version, MRA says.

In a petition demanding an investigation, "ThisDay" said the paper believes that police know more than they have publicly stated about the shooting. On 21 August, 21 civil rights groups including MRA expressed shock and concern. In December 2006, "ThisDay" editorial board chairman Godwin Agbroko was shot dead after leaving the office. His killers have not been found, MRA said.

On 20 August, Bashir Sanda Gusau, managing director of the state-owned "Legacy" newspaper in northwestern Nigeria, was sacked over an article disparaging President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. In a statement, the Zamfara state commissioner for information said Gusau was fired for the article's "insincerity."

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SENEGAL: Government Vehicle Seen in Attacks on Newsrooms

A government vehicle was reportedly involved when the offices of two Senegalese independent newspapers were ransacked on 17 August, three days after a top official threatened retaliation over critical stories.

A dozen unidentified men stormed the "24 Heures Chrono" daily and assaulted the only staffer in the office, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The assailants smashed 10 computers before speeding away in a vehicle bearing an official administration licence plate, the paper said.

Soon after and less than a kilometre away, men in a similar vehicle raided "L'As", attacking staffers with pepper spray and destroying two computers, said CPJ. At a third newspaper, "Le Courrier", managing editor Pape Amadou Gaye received five anonymous phone calls warning of an imminent attack. After seeing a car of the same description, Gaye summoned police and the vehicle left.

CPJ expressed dismay "that a group of thugs in a government vehicle could systematically ransack the offices of critical newspapers. Senegal's reputation as a beacon of press freedom in West Africa has dimmed in recent years."

More than 2,000 people, many dressed in black, demanded an end to the "campaign of demonisation and intimidation" against the media on 23 August, reports Agence France Presse (AFP). The protest in Senegal's capital, Dakar, was organised by the Committee for the Protection and Defense of Journalists, newly formed by several media outlets.

On 14 August, Air Transport Minister Farba Senghor, who is also a senior official in the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party, threatened the three targeted newspapers, plus the weekly "Pic", over critical stories. "24 Heures Chrono" recently published an audit report critical of Senghor's salary as chair of a private bus company.

Independent media had launched a coverage blackout of the ruling party to protest against a brutal police beating in June of two sports journalists. While visiting the United States in July, Sengalalese President Abdoulaye Wade said the two journalists had provoked the incident, and dismissed most journalists as corrupt, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Last year the main opposition boycotted elections in protest of what they say is Wade's "monarchy," Reuters reported.

Earlier in August, police raided a printing house to prevent distribution of the newspaper "L'As" and interrogation of the publisher, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported. Police also blocked a late July edition and questioned two journalists for publishing trade union criticism of the justice minister, according to news reports.

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In The Gambia, Fatou Jaw Manneh, a US-based Gambian journalist, will appeal a sentence of four years in prison or a fine of US $12,000, imposed on 18 August. MFWA reports she was convicted of intention to commit sedition, publication of "seditious words" and publication of "false news intended to create public fear and alarm." Local sources said Manneh paid the fine, said RSF.

Manneh was tried for an October 2005 article in which she accused President Yahya Jammeh of "tearing our beloved country to shreds" and described him as "a bundle of terror." See:

In Ghana, police stormed the premises of Radio Gold, an Accra-based pro-opposition FM station on 5 August. Fred Ayensu Lindsay, the station's financial controller, and Mohammed Caliph, a designer at the "Daily Guide" newspaper were assaulted and Lindsey was briefly held at a police station in Accra. See:

In Sierra Leone, security personnel violently assaulted eight journalists covering a 13 August meeting between the ruling All Peoples Congress Party (APC) and the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) at the State House in Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital. The same day, Unity Radio, a Freetown-based radio station owned by the SLPP, was ransacked by APC supporters, disrupting its broadcasts. See: and

In Niger, the Niamey-based radio and TV broadcaster Dounia was ordered on 19 August to suspend operations for one month. The decree from Niger's media regulatory body said Dounia was in "non-compliance with regulatory terms and conditions," CPJ said, citing "a pattern of a government censorship of media outlets, whether local or foreign, for critical coverage." See:

That same day, RSF says Niger's Court of Appeals refused to release veteran journalist Moussa Kaka despite a judge's dismissal in June of anti-state charges against him. Kaka's employer, French international broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI), was suspended for three months over its coverage of the case. See:

(Photo of Senegal demonstration courtesy of AFP)

(27 August 2008)

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