IFJ Urges Senegal to Drop Concealment Charges to the Prosecution of a Journalist




The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Senegalese authorities to put an end to the legal proceedings against Abdou Latif Coulibaly, investigative journalist and Director of Publication of the weekly magazine, La Gazette, who was charged on July 10, 2010 for “concealment of administrative and private documents pertaining to the Senegalese National Lottery (LONASE)” following a complaint of its Managing Director Mr. Baila Wane.

“The charge itself is problematic, because the said documents normally belong to the public domain, since LONASE is a public company.” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of IFJ Africa Office. “This inculpation of the journalist is of  grave concern, since on one hand, it challenges and questions the right of access of the citizens to public information and on the other hand the protection of  sources which constitute one of the basic principles of the exercise of journalism” he added.

On July 2007, following an investigation, Abdou Latif Coulibaly, Director of Publication of the weekly magazine, La Gazette published a book entitled: “Senegalese National Lottery (LONASE): chronicle of an organized plundering” giving a report on a bad management of public money within this national company. Following this publication, the Managing Director and the company, summoned the author to appear before the regional Court of Dakar for “defamation and publication of false reports”.

Ruling in penal audience, the Court, dismissed the plaintiffs, by declaring inadmissible the procedure initiated by LONASE Managing Director, who immediately lodged an appeal and the case is tabled for November 5th.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of LONASE filed a new complaint to the regional Court of Dakar for “concealment of administrative and private documents pertaining to the LONASE”. On July 10, 2010, the judge summoned and heard Abdou Latif Coulibaly, notified him the inculpation and let him on bail.

However, Article 8 of the Constitution of Senegal guarantees to all citizens, fundamental individual freedoms, among which are the freedom of thought, freedom of expression and press freedom.

Moreover, Senegal adopted Law 2006-19 of June, on 30th 2006 relating to the archives and administrative documents which specifies in Article 3 that all documents produced by the national companies belong to the public archives which according to Article 4 of the same law, belong to the inheritance of the Nation and are consequently to the service of the Administration and the citizens.

This law also spells out that for its implementation, a National Commission on access to administrative information must be set up by decree to define the methods of access by the citizens to information. But the decree is yet to be issued.

The Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa of the African Commission of the Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) states: “public bodies hold information not for themselves, but as custodians of the public good and everyone has a right to access this information, subject only to clearly defined rules established by law”. According to this Declaration, no one shall be subject to any sanction for releasing in good faith information on wrongdoing…

The FIJ calls on the Senegalese authorities to put an end to the prosecutions against the journalist for “concealment of administrative and private documents” and to accelerate the process of adopting the access to information law in order to reinforce freedom of expression in Senegal and to maintain the image of role model democracy.

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The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 125 countries worldwide