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Senegal31 March 2008

Police rough up journalists covering banned protest and stop TV station from broadcasting footage

Reporters Without Borders condemns police use of violence against journalists covering a banned street march against cost of living increases in Dakar yesterday afternoon, and a police raid yesterday evening on a TV station that was broadcasting footage showing how police broke up the protest.

“The security forces behaved in a manner unworthy of Senegalese democracy,” the press freedom organisation said. “Erasing pictures of clashes and preventing them being shown on TV is not an effective way of keeping order. Instead of flexing its muscles and pushing the opposition into more radical positions, the government would do better to ensure that the public is freely informed of what is happening in the capital.”

The protest against hikes in the price of basic staples, organised by the Association of Senegalese Consumers (ASCOSEN), was dispersed violently by the police force’s Mobile Intervention Group (GMI) at around 4 pm. Backed by several opposition politicians, the march had been banned by the prefect of Dakar.

Several journalists were physically attacked by police as the march was being dispersed. An electric baton was used on Ousmane Mangane of the privately-owned daily Walf Fadjri when he approached a parliamentarian being manhandled by policemen. Serigne Diagne of the news website Senactu was forced to delete photos he had taken of the clashes. Macoumba Mbodj of privately-owned Radio Futur Média (RFM) was manhandled and his press ID was torn up. The TV camera of a reporter with privately owned Canal Info was dashed to the ground.

At around 7 pm, members of the Criminal Investigation Division raided privately-owned Walf TV as it was broadcasting footage of the dispersal of the protest, ordered staff to suspend the broadcast and demanded the original footage. “We gave them the videotapes after notifying the head of the company,” Walf TV journalist Aïssatou Diop Fall said.

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