Dakar, November 16, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Senegalese authorities to release Walfadjri press group journalist Pape Sané, who was arrested November 13 on false news accusations, and drop all legal proceedings against him.
“Pape Sané’s arrest is just the latest in a series of attacks by authorities against the Walfadjri media group and critical journalism in Senegal, signaling the further deterioration of the country’s press freedom environment,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, in New York. “Senegalese authorities must immediately release Pape Sané, discontinue criminal proceedings against him, and allow him to work without further harassment.”
Sané was arrested by officers with the Colobane research section of the gendarmerie as he left the privately owned Walfadjri press group’s offices in Dakar, Senegal’s capital, according to Moustapha Diop, Walfadjri’s radio and television director. The false news accusation relates to a post on Sané’s Facebook page discussing the replacement of the high commander of the gendarmerie, who was dismissed after March 2021 demonstrations over the arrest of the Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko, according to media reports.
If convicted of disseminating false news, Sané could face up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 1,500,000 West African francs (US$2,450), according to article 255 of the Senegalese penal code.
In June, authorities suspended Walf TV, the group’s television service, as well as its access to the Wave mobile money platform, for roughly a month. Senegal’s National Council for Audiovisual Regulation (CNRA) similarly suspended Walf TV for seven days in February 2023 and 72 hours in March 2021. In March, a reporter for the outlet, Pape Ndiaye, was jailed for spreading false news, before being released on bail in June. Authorities have also detained reporter Maty Sarr Niang since May 16 on various charges, including “usurping the function of a journalist.”
CPJ’s calls to Senegalese public prosecutor Abdou Karim Diop were unanswered. Diop messaged that he would respond but did not do so by the time of publication.