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Senegal22 February 2007

Authorities urged to maintain order after government supporters attack 15 journalists

Reporters Without Borders today condemned an attack by pro-government demonstrators on about 15 journalists who were following a convoy of supporters of opposition presidential candidate Idrissa Seck of the Rewmi party and the And Liguey Senegal coalition yesterday in the Dakar district of Mermoz.

Several people were injured when the convoy was attacked by followers of Cheikh Bethio Thioune, a marabout (religious leader) and well-known supporter President Abdoulaye Wade of the ruling Senegalese Democratic Party, who is running for another term in elections on 25 February. The journalists’ vehicles were ransacked, some of their equipment was stolen and some of them were threatened with knives while police looked on without intervening.

Reporters Without Borders said it condemned any act of violence against the press and stressed that governments are obliged to guarantee the safety of journalists in democracies. The press freedom organisation deplored the fact that members of the Senegal press were the victims of political rivalry and were assaulted on the street just three days before the election.

The organisation called on the security forces and, in particular, interior minister Ousmane Ngom, to prevent any further outbreaks of violence on the eve of the election and to ensure adequate security measures for any political activities that journalists were likely to cover,

In yesterday’s incident, the press was following an opposition convoy in two vehicles. One of them was a minibus containing about 10 journalists working for privately-owned media, including Radio Futurs Médias (RFM), the Walfadjri group, the daily Le Populaire and radio Océan FM.

In the attack by demonstrators on the minibus, laptops and mobiles phones were taken, one of the journalists received a blow from a club and another was hit by a thrown stone. The journalists finally fled while the demonstrators torched the minibus. At one point, a woman journalist working for radio Walfadjri was surrounded by a group of very threatening assailants and only managed to get away after a friend in the crowd intervened.

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