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Mauritania5 June 2003

Islamist weekly banned

Reporters Without Borders today voiced its concern about the banning of the Islamist weekly Raya and the closure of its offices under an interior ministry order of 1 June.

"As far as we know, this Islamist publication has never called for violence, contrary to what the Mauritanian authorities say," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "One cannot help thinking that this ban on a newspaper that was never sparing in its criticism of the government is just a way to gag a sector of the opposition six months before the presidential election," Ménard added.

Raya had already been told to stop publishing at the start of May when some 30 people in Islamist circles were arrested on charges of inciting violence. Those detained included Jamil Mansour, a member of parliament and contributor to Raya.

Raya editor Ould Wediaa, who is currently in hiding, told Agence France-Presse on 30 May that the interior ministry accused the newspaper of trying to sabotage the government and promoting "intolerance." Wediaa said the newspaper had just reported the positions of all the components of the political class and described the ministry’s order as "arbitrary."

The 1 June ban was issued under article 11 of the press freedom law of 25 July 1991 which says "the interior ministry may, by decree, ban the circulation, distribution or sale of newspapers [...] which endanger the principles of Islam or the credibility of the state, or are detrimental to the general interest or disturb public order and security." The interior ministry is not required to explain its decisions.

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