SEPTEMBER 30, 2005
Posted October 13, 2005

Radio Télévision Sénégalaise
Hizbut Tarqiyah


In a recorded statement broadcast by local radio stations, chief caliph Serigne Saliou Mbacké ordered all three FM radio stations based in the Muslim holy city of Touba to vacate within three days. Touba is the center of the Senegalese Muslim community known as the mourides, a traditional Islamic brotherhood founded by Mbacké’s father that exerts considerable influence over many aspects of Senegalese life. A ruling by the spiritual leader known as the caliph, while not legally binding, carries great practical weight.

The ruling affected the private station Disso, the local branch of state-owned Radio Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS), and the community radio station Hizbut Tarqiyah, all of which went off the air, according to local sources.

According to the independent daily Walfadjri, the caliph said he intended to “preserve the holy city from occult practices contrary to Islam.”

The ban occurred several months after Disso became the first commercial radio station to set up shop in Touba. Local sources told CPJ that the expulsion could be linked to news and discussion programs broadcast by Disso, including a recent phone-in program in which several callers criticized Touba’s elected governing council. Disso’s director, Ibrahima Benjamin Diagne, told CPJ that local politicians influenced the caliph’s action.

In the capital, Dakar, a committee of scholars, journalists, and civil society leaders issued a statement protesting a growing number of threats to press freedom in Senegal. The statement cited the closure of the Touba stations as a prominent recent example.