Police officers are seen amid protests in Dakar, Senegal, on June 1, 2023. The broadcaster Walf TV was suspended for one month over its protest coverage. (John Wessels/AFP)

Senegalese broadcaster Walf TV suspended for 1 month, threatened with permanent license revocation

On June 1, 2023, Senegalese Minister of Communication, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy Moussa Bocar Thiam ordered a 30-day suspension of Walf TV, the television broadcast service of the privately owned media group Wal Fadjri, over its coverage of ongoing countrywide protests. 

Authorities cut off Walf TV’s broadcast signal on June 1 and restored broadcasts on July 1. Wal Fadijri’s radio, print, and online services continued to publish during that time, according to CPJ’s review of their output. 

In early June, protests escalated following the sentencing of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko to two years in prison for “corrupting youth,” prompting authorities to disrupt access to online platforms and mobile internet

Thiam’s order, which CPJ reviewed, justified the suspension by claiming Walf TV “constantly” broadcasted violent images about teenagers joining the protests and aired “subversive, hateful and dangerous statements” which incited violence and undermined state security. 

If Wal Fadjri is found to repeat the offense, the order said the group’s television broadcast authorization could be subject to “definitive withdrawal.”

“We have been forced to lay off many of our employees, who technically could no longer do anything, as they were deprived of their work tools,” Cheikh Niass, Wal Fadjri’s managing director, told CPJ via messaging app. Niass said the company was later able to rehire those workers.

Wal Fadjri challenged the suspension at Senegal’s Supreme Court, and on June 22, the court declined to reverse the order because the suspension was already well underway and the purpose was in the “public interests,” according to Niass and a copy of the court ruling reviewed by CPJ.

Moustapha Diop, Wal Fadjri’s director of radio and television, told CPJ that the suspension had negatively impacted the staff’s morale and they felt a “sword of Damocles hanging over [them], and that the slightest mistake or error could result in prosecution.”

CPJ’s calls to Thiam went unanswered. Calls to the Ministry of Communication, Telecommunications, and Digital Economy did not connect.

On June 9, Senegalese authorities also blocked Wal Fadjri’s ability to use the Wave mobile money platform, hindering the group’s fundraising campaign launched the same day. The group received the 40 million francs (US$66,300) collected via Wave on Monday, July 3, after the block expired.

Senegal’s National Council for Audiovisual Regulation (CNRA) suspended Walf TV for seven days in February 2023 and 72 hours in March 2021 over its political demonstration coverage. In March 2022, the regulator also issued a 72-hour suspension for broadcasters ZIK FM and Sen TV over political coverage.

In March 2023, police arrested Walf TV reporter Pape Ndiaye on false news charges and released him on bail on June 20 under strict conditions.