In Senegal, ruling party official said to threaten radio staff

New York, April 20, 2007—Critical comments made during a radio call-in program Wednesday led a ruling party politician and his supporters to threaten staffers at a private radio station in the town of Mbacké, 105 miles (168 kilometers) east of the capital Dakar, according to local journalists and media reports. The politician denied making any threats.

Moustapha Cissé Lô and a dozen supporters came to Radio Disso FM in response to an anonymous caller’s comments during a call-in show devoted to the June parliamentary election. Station management met with the group after a tense, 45-minute standoff, during which the politician and his supporters clamored outside.

Lô, a candidate of the ruling PDS party, threatened to harm any journalist who mentioned his name, and he warned that he would “send vandals to ransack your radio,” Station Director Ibrahima Benjamin Diagne said in a prepared statement. Lô, who is also a member of the government’s Council of the Republic, denied threatening anyone, according to private daily L’Observateur.

Lô and his supporters pressed Diagne to reveal the name and telephone number of the caller, but the director refused, according to news reports. The group left when Diagne summoned police. Diagne told CPJ he later received numerous threatening phone calls from Lô and his supporters.

“We condemn this attempt to intimidate Radio Disso staff—something that is out of step with Senegal’s democratic tradition,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We call on the authorities to investigate this matter immediately and to prosecute those responsible.”

The Senegalese Syndicate of Information and Communication Professionals has also condemned the threats. The station filed a complaint with the police, Diagne told CPJ. L’Observateur quoted Lô as saying that he had filed a counter-complaint demanding the closure of the station and 200 million CFA francs (US$415,000) in damages.

Diagne, 2003 winner of Radio France Internationale’s best radio report award, is also a former reporter for the leading independent daily Wal Fadjri. The station, which was founded in 2005, is owned by an influential and apolitical Muslim cleric in Mbacké, according to local journalists.