English PEN is outraged by the three-year prison sentence imposed on El Malick Seck, editor of the Dakar daily 24 Heures Chrono, on 12 September 2008 for a piece implicating President Abdoulaye Wade in money laundering. English PEN believes that Seck has been convicted for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
Detained since his arrest on 28 August, Seck was on 12 September sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “offending the head of state, publishing false news and threatening public order”. His newspaper was also banned from circulation for three months.
The charges reportedly stemmed from a 24 Heures Chrono editorial that stated that President Wade and his son Karim, a special adviser, were implicated in laundering money stolen from a bank in the Ivory Coast. The piece is said to be based on purported allegations made by an Ivorian politician in 2006. The accusations have reportedly been denied by the authorities and no official charges have been brought.
Seck has appealed the ruling and the hearing is set for 28 October. A 24 Heures Chrono reporter, Maké Dagnokho, has reportedly started a hunger strike to protest Seck’s imprisonment.
Seck’s arrest followed an attack on the premises of 24 Heures Chrono and another newspaper, L’As, in mid-August, days after the then Transport Minister Farba Senghor threatened retaliation against the papers for publishing critical stories. Senghor has since been dismissed and questioned by a judge over the incident, and 12 individuals, including three who were previously working for Senghor, were given prison sentences on 11 September for their involvement in the raids.
Senegal is one of Africa’s worst offenders in terms of criminal defamation prosecutions, with some 20 such cases brought against journalists every year. Courts frequently hand down disproportionate rulings, often consisting of both custodial sentences and heavy fines, although in the recent past journalists have rarely gone to prison.
President Abdoulaye Wade pledged to repeal criminal penalties for press offences, including defamation in 2004, but there has been no progress since. Indeed, the use of criminal defamation laws against journalists, including those providing for ‘insulting the President’, appears to have increased over the last year.
For more information, see the WiPC’s report Free Expression, Corruption and Criminal Defamation in Africa published in January 2008.
Please send appeals:
-Protesting the three-year prison sentence imposed on El Malick Seck, editor of the Dakar daily 24 Heures Chrono, which the WiPC believes is in violation of his right to freedom of expression, guaranteed by the Senegalese Constitution, as well as by the African Union’s African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Senegal is party;
-Calling for Seck to be released immediately and unconditionally;
-Urging the President to review Senegal’s defamation laws and any criminal restrictions on content, in line with his 2004 promise to decriminalise press offences and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
President of the Republic of Senegal
His Excellency President Abdoulaye Wade
Office of the President, Avenue Aoume, Dakar, Republic of Senegal, West Africa
Fax: 221 33 823 1702
Salutation: Dear President Wade
Please also send appeals to the diplomatic representative of Senegal:
His Excellency Général Mamadou Niang
39, Marloes Road
Fax: 0207 938 25 46
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/senegaleditorsentencedtothreeyearsimprisonment/