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Mauritania14 January 2003

Independant newspaper censored

Reporters Without Borders today denounced the Mauritanian government’s banning of the latest issue of the weekly Arab-language paper Sahafa, apparently because it contained a report on opposition activities abroad.

"This shows once again that the authorities will not tolerate the independent press giving a voice to opposition figures," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to interior minister Lemrabott Sidi Mahmud Ould Sheikh Ahmed, calling on him to reverse the ban.

The ministry, which has censored eight publications over the past year, banned the printing of the 13 January issue of Sahafa under article 11 of the 1991 press law that allows censorship of material that "harms the reputation of the state." This can be done without having to give any reason.

Editor Mohammed Mahmud Ould Bacar said the report on the opposition abroad included news about the French-based underground Conscience et Résistance group. Bacar, a member of the national committee for observance of journalistic ethics, was arrested by plainclothes police last 19 September at Nouakchott airport and questioned about his alleged links with Conscience et Résistance. He was freed two days later.

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