The International Federation of Journalists today gave its full backing to a mass campaign by journalists and civil, including a strike planned for Friday, over demands to reform Senegal’s penal code, which it describes as “a legal nightmare for journalists,” and calls for the immediate release of a newspaper chief who was jailed earlier this month.
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White said that the imprisonment of Madiambal Diagne, Director of the daily news Le Quotidien, “violates the core principles of press freedom and flows from a legal framework that is a nightmare for journalists and all who work in media. We fully support the campaign to free our colleague and to get this dreadful law changed.”
The IFJ support comes after a demonstration by journalists, lawyers and other civil society groups outside the offices of the Ministry of Information on July 19. Campaigners are calling on the Minister Mamadou Diop Decroix to uphold the law on the press which gives journalists the right to protect their sources, to intervene to secure the release of Madiambal Diagne and to set about changing the Penal Code, particularly in Article 80, dealing with national security, which they say is being abused in its use against journalists.
This article say the campaigners, led by Alpha A. Sall, also General Secretary of the West African Journalists Association (WAJA), provides for at least three years jail for convictions of offences against the state, including « spreading information against the state » and amounts to what they call a repressive arsenal of legal firepower against the press.
The IFJ is calling on its member unions to back the campaign to free Diagne and then to review the law which they say is punitive and has already been used against the press in the case of Sophie Malibeau, a correspondent of Radio France Internationale who was expelled from Senegal last October. In this latest case Diagne has been accused over coverage by his newspaper and faced demands to reveal sources of information.
Despite hopes that he will be released quickly, a strike by journalists and media staff is planned for Friday in Dakar this week and a protest demonstration will be held. Plans are also in hand to carry out protests over the case in Paris when Senegal President Me Abdoulaye Wade visits the Elysée Palace on Friday.
“This is a case and a campaign that must be taken seriously at international level,” said White. “Senegal is a country where democracy has taken root, but the use of bad law against journalists and media sets a dangerous precedent that could be followed by other countries in the region.”
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries