Moustapha Sow, the managing editor of the Dakar-based daily L’Office, was freed conditionally on 14 July pending the outcome of his appeal against his conviction on a charge of libelling Bara Tall, the CEO of a construction company. The release hearing should have been held on 7 July but was postponed a week by Dakar appeal court judge Boubacar Diallo.
After being sentenced by a Dakar court to six months in prison in the Tall case in May, Sow began serving his sentence on 29 June and had spent two weeks in prison when the release request filed by his lawyers was finally held by the Dakar appeal court.
05.07.2006 - Publication director jailed for "defamation"
Reporters Without Borders has denounced the incarceration, on 29 June 2006, of Moustapha Sow, publication director of the privately-owned daily "L’Office", who was sentenced to a six-month prison sentence with no parole for "defaming" a businessman.
"In Senegal, as elsewhere, journalists pay the price for political crises when the press laws are inappropriate. With the incarceration of Moustapha Sow, we have additional proof that a bad law creates injustice. Throwing a man of the press in prison, on the pretext of alleged defamation, repairs no harm and only serves to satisfy a desire for personal revenge," said Reporters Without Borders.
Sow was arrested by police on 29 June on the basis of a six-month prison sentence pronounced against him by a Dakar court in February. An arrest warrant was issued, but had no effect until his summons to the police station. The journalist is currently detained at the Reubess detention centre. His lawyers have filed a request for his release to the Dakar Appeals Court.
In Senegal, arrest warrants that are never enforced are frequently issued by the courts. According to Sow’s colleagues, he never expected to be jailed.
The publication director of "L’Office" was prosecuted for "defamation" against Bara Tall, CEO of a construction firm, whose name was cited in a case of over-billing and misappropriation of funds at building sites in Thiès (western Senegal). The prosecutor accused "L’Office" of publishing some 75 articles on the role allegedly played by Tall in this affair, which he characterised as media harassment". During the trial, the plaintiff’s lawyers demanded 2.25 billion CFA francs (approx. 3.5 million euros).
The Thiès building site case shook Senegalese political life for several months, most notably when the former prime minister and mayor of the city, Idrissa Seck, was imprisoned for "corruption".