Senegalese policemen in Dakar on June 17, 2022. During a June 21 Facebook video, Talla Sylla, a member of the ruling APR party's youth branch, called for attacks on the privately owned Walfadjri media company and its journalists. (Seyllou/AFP)

Senegalese ruling party member calls for attacks on Walfadjri media company, journalists

Dakar, July 6, 2022 — Senegalese authorities should investigate a call by Talla Sylla, a member of the ruling Alliance for the Republic (APR) party’s youth branch, to burn down the privately owned Walfadjri media company and attack its journalists, ensure the safety of the journalists and the outlet, and allow the press to work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.

Sylla, a member of Cojer (Convergence of Young Republicans), called for the arson and attacks on the Walfadjri journalists during a June 21 Facebook Live interview posted by privately owned news website Xibar24, according to CPJ’s review of the video. Walfadjri shares offices and journalists with Walf TV, one of its subsidiaries, and its radio, daily newspaper, and website branches.

In the video, Sylla expressed displeasure over Walf TV’s critical reporting on Senegalese President Macky Sall, although he did not cite a specific report, and added, “In other countries, they would have burned Walfadjri. Walfadjri must be burned. We need an attack on the journalists of Walfadjri to end this television,” according to CPJ’s review.

“Senegalese authorities should investigate ruling APR party member Talla Sylla over his public call to attack and burn down the Walfadjri media company, and ensure the safety of Walfadjri’s staff and journalists,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in Durban, South Africa. “When a member of Senegal’s ruling party advocates for violence against journalists, it sends a chilling message that such violence is acceptable in the eyes of the government.”

On July 1, Sylla called Walf TV director Moustapha Diop and apologized for the remarks in the video, emphasizing that the animosity was directed toward the management of the broader Walfadjri company and not Walf TV staff in particular, Diop told CPJ by phone. CPJ called Sylla and Seydou Guèye, a spokesperson for Cojer and the ruling APR party, but Sylla’s line did not connect, and Guèye did not answer.

Diop and Bamba Kassé, the secretary-general of the Senegalese journalists’ union (SYNPICS), is working on filing a joint complaint against Sylla, they told CPJ by phone. On July 4, a bailiff was ordered to serve Sylla with a direct summons, as is necessary before the complaint could be filed to a prosecutor, but the bailiff has not been able to reach Sylla, Diop told CPJ.

In a statement posted on their Facebook page, SYNPICS called Sylla’s comments a “threat to the entire Senegalese press.”