Country Summary

Authorities persist in their use of the infamous Article 11 of Mauritania’s 1991 press ordinance to censor independent journalism. Under the ordinance, the interior minister has the power to ban the distribution and sale of any newspaper or periodical that is likely to harm Islamic principles, state authority, or that jeopardizes public order. In practice, authorities use these broad prescriptions to prevent the distribution of newspapers that touch on sensitive political issues, such as the practice of slavery in Mauritania and the country’s October legislative elections.

In many cases, however, authorities do not go to the trouble of publicly invoking the vague language of the press ordinance, choosing instead to confiscate publications without official explanation. This was the case with several newspapers, including the weeklies Teissir, La Tribune, and Al-Akhbar. In contrast, the authorities were careful to spell out the alleged press offenses of the weekly Mauritanie Nouvelles,which was suspended for three months in May for “sow[ing] subversion and harm[ing] the interests of the country.” In a separate case in November, authorities slapped a three-month ban on the weekly Le Calme for “harming state interests.”

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