Senegalese newsroom records threat by minister

New York, August 9, 2007—A Senegalese government official accused of lying about his educational degree threatened reporters with violence this week, according to news reports and local journalists.

Transport Minister Farba Senghor threatened over a newsroom speakerphone on Tuesday to “beat up” private daily Walf Grand-Place’s reporter Pape Sambaré Ndour, after calling the journalist a “bastard,” said Walf Grand-Place director Jean Meïssa Diop. Journalists listened to the minister on a speakerphone and recorded him. In the exchange, Senghor allegedly warned Diop: “I’m going to destroy both of you, your journalist and you,” according to a transcript later published in the paper. Walf Grand-Place will charge Senghor with making violent threats after they hand over the recording to the Senegalese press union, Diop said.

News reports and Diop linked the threats to Ndour’s coverage of the minister in Tuesday’s “Wade’s Strange Government: Two Ex-Model Ministers,” which alleged that Senghor had lied in the past when he’d said he had a diploma from a management school in Italy. The paper published a letter to the editor by Senghor the following day.

“It’s simply not appropriate for a government minister to threaten reporters,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “We hope that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade will demand an explanation for this conduct and take the necessary action.”

Walf Grand-Place was the second media outlet threatened by a ruling party official over critical coverage this year. Staffers at Radio Disso FM were allegedly threatened by a candidate of the leading party in April.

Diop and reporter Faydy Dramé were given suspended prison terms in March in connection with a June 2006 story on a consumer complaint against a car dealership. Walf Grand-Place is part of the leading independent Wal Fadjri media group.