Journalist detained

New York, March 16, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned that Mauritanian authorities detained a journalist for reporting on the illegal slave trade.

According to press reports and a Mauritanian source, police detained freelance journalist Mohamed Ould Lamine Mahmoudi on Sunday, March 13, after he interviewed a woman in the southern town Mederdra who claimed that she was kept as a slave by a family in another small Mauritanian town.

According to the Mauritanian source, Mahmoudi, along with two anti-slavery activists who also took the woman’s testimony, were charged with fabricating information and tarnishing Mauritania’s image. The state prosecutor said that three face up to four years in prison if convicted, according to The Associated Press.

Mauritanian authorities are sensitive to reporting about slavery and insist that the practice, outlawed in 1981, no longer exists in the country. But human rights groups say the practice still occurs.

“Mahmoudi was reporting on a controversial topic of obvious public interest,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “He should be released immediately, and all charges against him should be dropped.”