Journalist beaten after report criticizing religious leader

New York, May 5, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Thursday’s attack on Pape Cheikh Fall, a correspondent for the private radio station RFM in the central Senegalese city of Mbacké. RFM’s parent group Futurs Médias linked the attack to a report criticizing a local religious leader’s foray into politics.

Fall was beaten with metal cables, and suffered head and back injuries, according to a doctor quoted by the state-owned news service Agence de Presse Sénégalaise (APS).

Futurs Médias filed a police complaint against Cheikh Béthio Thioune, the leader of a local Islamic sect, blaming his followers for the assault. Thioune is a marabout, the leader of a sect within a traditional Muslim brotherhood that exerts considerable influence over aspects of Senegalese life. According to the daily L’Observateur, which is also owned by Futurs Médias, Fall’s report quoted several sect members who criticized Thioune’s claim that he would mobilize his “four million disciples” to help re-elect President Abdoulaye Wade in 2007. In an interview with APS today, Thioune denied any involvement in the attack.

In an April 28 interview with L’Observateur, Thioune warned that “people who insult me should take responsibility for their actions. I will not be responsible for what my disciples might do to them,” the paper reported today.

“This brutal attack on Pape Cheikh Fall is deeply disturbing,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ executive director. “Senegalese authorities must ensure that those responsible are swiftly brought to justice.”

In October 2005, another local religious leader forced three radio stations to leave the Muslim holy city of Touba. For more information, see CPJ’s alert: