Pape Alé Niang, an investigative journalist for Dakarmatin, was arrested on November 6, 2022, in Dakar after police accused him of breaching professional secrecy and publishing information likely to harm national defense and public security. (Screenshot: YouTube/Dakarmatin)

Authorities charge Senegalese journalist Pape Alé Niang with harming national defense over report on leaked document

Dakar, November 14, 2022 — Senegalese authorities should drop all charges against journalist Pape Alé Niang, release him, and reform the country’s laws to ensure journalism is not criminalized, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

On November 6, police arrested Niang, director of the privately owned website Dakarmatin, in the capital, Dakar. On November 9, a local prosecutor charged him with disclosure of information to harm the national defense, concealment of administrative and military documents, and dissemination of false information likely to discredit public institutions, according to one of his lawyers, Ciré Cldédor Ly, who spoke to CPJ by phone, and reports by local media and regional press freedom groups.

Ly said the charges relate to a November 3 video published by Dakarmatin in which Niang reported on the contents of an internal gendarmerie report that purportedly exonerated Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader and 2024 presidential candidate charged with rape.

Niang faces a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and has been charged under Articles 64, 80, 255, 370, and 430 of the Senegalese penal code, Ly said.

“Senegalese authorities should drop all charges against journalist Pape Alé Niang over his video report about a leaked document and immediately release him. Authorities must also allow Niang to report freely without further harassment, and reform the country’s laws to ensure acts of journalism are not criminalized,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “There is no reason that journalists in Senegal, which is often lauded as one of the most stable democracies on the continent, should continue to face the threat of imprisonment for their work.”

Ly told CPJ that Niang is in Dakar’s central prison where, under Senegal’s standard legal procedures, he may spend six to eight months before trial. The prosecutor’s choice to bring such heavy charges made the journalist’s prolonged detention more likely, Ly said.

CPJ sent Senegal’s Ministry of Justice questions via Facebook but received no response.

Separately, on November 5, a police officer aggressively pushed Fatou Dione, a journalist with the privately owned website and television station Buur News, to the ground as she filmed arrests at a protest in Dakar calling for a release of political prisoners, according to a news report, a video taken by another journalist and reviewed by CPJ, and Dione, who spoke to CPJ by phone. Dione told CPJ she was knocked unconscious and sought medical treatment for body aches.

CPJ called Senegalese police spokesperson Mouhamed Guèye, but the line did not connect.