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Senegal24 February 2009

Three-year jail sentence for newspaper editor upheld on appeal

A Dakar appeal court yesterday upheld the three-year jail sentence passed on El Malick Seck, the editor of the Dakar-based daily 24 Heures Chrono, on 12 September for a vaguely-sourced report claiming the president and his son Karim were involved in money laundering in Côte d’Ivoire. Arrested on 28 August, Seck was convicted of “disseminating false news.”

“This regrettable ruling is very damaging for Senegal’s image,” Reporters Without Borders said. “By insisting on keeping Seck in prison, the Senegalese authorities have preferred punishment to justice.”

Reporters Without Borders wrote to President Abdoulaye Wade on 17 January voicing concern about the judicial persecution of Seck and asking him to grant the editor a pardon. No reply was received to the letter.

12.09.08 - Dakar newspaper editor gets three years in prison for libelling president

Reporters Without Borders urges President Abdoulaye Wade to quickly embark on a thorough overhaul of Senegal’s press legislation after El Malick Seck, the editor of the Dakar-based daily 24 Heures Chrono, was today sentenced to three years in prison for an article claiming that the president was involved in money laundering.

“This sentence reflects all the unfairness and absurdity of Senegal’s law on press offenses,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The alleged libel is in no way redressed by imposing a very severe sentence and now the government has a political prisoner on its hands. As a result of refusing to recognise that imprisonment is not the appropriate response in cases such as this, the authorities must now cope with the consequences of a repressive and dangerous system.”

The press freedom organisation advises the government to do everything necessary to have Seck released and then quickly draw up a timetable for reforming the press law and creating an independent media regulatory body in consultation with representative journalists.

Seck was convicted on charges of “activity liable to disrupt public order and cause serious political unrest,” “disseminating false news,” “public insult” and “illegal possession of government documents.” His newspaper, which had initially been allowed to resume publishing after his arrest, was suspended by order of the court for three months.

Seck was arrested on 28 August just hours after 24 Heures Chrono ran a vaguely-sourced story claiming that President Wade and his son, Karim, had been involved in the laundering of money stolen in Côte d’Ivoire.

24 Heures Chrono was one of the two privately-owned newspapers whose premises were attacked in mid-August by men driving a government car, who smashed computers and sprayed tear-gas on employees.

Twelve men were yesterday given sentences ranging from five to six years in prison for these raids, which - some of them said - were “punitive operations” ordered by the newly-dismissed air transport minister, Farba Senghor.

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