Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade has written a response to a recent CPJ protest letter. While we welcome his attention to the issues we raised about press freedom last month, we note with great concern the president’s comments about the ongoing criminal case of two journalists assaulted by police in 2008.
In Wade’s October 8 letter, which included photos of a state of the art press center currently under construction, he made a number of serious allegations about the circumstances of the June 2008 incident involving Babacar Kambel Dieng and Kara Thioune and police officers after a soccer match. The president, without naming a perpetrator, accused one of the journalists of provoking the incident by “slapping a police officer.”
CPJ is concerned that such strong assertions are expressed as facts. We are worried that the ongoing criminal case could be influenced by such remarks. Dieng and Thioune are entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The outcome should not be prejudged.
Wade also suggested that CPJ did not investigate or protest prison sentences and fines against pro-government Editor Ndiogou Wack Seck. In fact, a search of Seck’s name on the CPJ Web site shows an April 18, 2007, news alert condemning a prison sentence against him.
We welcome the release of two journalists imprisoned on September 18 on libel charges, a development the president credited to the public prosecutor’s office, which he said had opposed the judge’s decision to jail the journalists.
CPJ notes the president’s concerns about the press in his country, including unethical practices in the handling of information, and appreciates the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with him.
Read Wade’s original letter in French here.
Read an English translation sent with the original here.