In Mauritania, 2 journalists jailed for a week on criminal defamation complaint

The editor-chief and the publisher, respectively, of two independent Mauritanian news websites were arrested on August 8, 2018, and held for a week on criminal defamation charges, according to news reports. They were released on bail August 15, according to the reports.

Judicial police on August 8 arrested Babacar Ndiaye, editor-in-chief of Cridem, according to his employer and other news reports. They arrested Mahmoudi Seybout, publisher of Taqadoum, later the same day, his employer and other news websites reported. A local newspaper, Al-Akhbar, quoted members of both journalists’ families as saying that they were not allowed to visit the journalists.

According to Taqadoum and Al-Akhbar, the arrests came after Paris-based lawyer Jemal Taleb filed a criminal defamation complaint against both journalists. The Mauritanian news website Initiatives News reported that Taqadoum had initially posted an article about Taleb’s alleged ties to the Mauritanian government, which was then summarized by the Francophone Africa-focused news website Mondafrique. Cridem then republished the Mondafrique article, according to Initiative News.

CPJ could not locate the article on either Cridem or Taqadoum‘s website. Cridem on August 9 published on its website an apology to Taleb for defaming him in an article, but did not link to the article or elaborate on its contents.

In an emailed response to CPJ on August 14, Taleb confirmed that he had filed a complaint against Cridem and Taqadoum without specifying whether he had named either journalist in the proceeding.

CPJ could not reach either journalist by phone. Taqadoum Editor-in-Chief Choaib Haj told CPJ on August 23 via WhatsApp that Seybout was negotiating to resolve the case, but did not give further information. Cridem did not respond to CPJ’s emailed request for information.

CPJ’s email query to the Mauritanian National Army, under which the Mauritanian Gendarmerie governs the local police, went unanswered. CPJ was unable to contact the national police because the email function on their website did not work and no address was provided.