Attacks on the Press 2002: Mauritania

Mauritanian authorities continue to use the country’s harsh 1991 press law to punish journalists who run afoul of the regime. Article 11 of the law allows the interior minister to ban the sale of publications that commit such vague offenses as “insulting Islamic principles or the credibility of the state,” harming “the public interest,” or disturbing “peace and security.” Under the law, distribution or sale of offending publications is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine. Publishers are required to submit copies of publications to the Interior Ministry prior to distribution.

Authorities banned numerous publications in 2002, including an issue of the bimonthly French-language Le Rénovateur in July. The paper’s editor told the local press that the ban stemmed from an article about foreign exchange and price increases of basic goods. In August, the Interior Ministry halted printing of an edition of the weekly Le Calame, which carried a report about protests in France against Mauritanian president Maaouya Ould Sid Ahmed Taya, who was on a state visit there at the time.

Journalists who angered the government were arbitrarily detained during 2002. Authorities held Mohammed Fall Ould Oumere, editor of the weekly French-language La Tribune, for 10 days in April after accusing him of belonging to an anti-government group called Conscience and Resistance. Oumere had written an article about the group in a March issue of La Tribune. Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Bakkar, publisher of the monthly Al-Khaima and the weekly Assahafa, was held for two days in September for allegedly belonging to the same group.

April 10

Mohammed Lemine Ould Bah, Radio Monte Carlo Middle East, Radio France International

Bah, a correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo Middle East and Radio France International, was temporarily banned from practicing journalism after the minister of communications objected to his reports on the state of relations between Senegal and Mauritania.