May 15, 2009

His Excellency President Abdoulaye Wade
President of the Republic of Senegal
Office of the President
Avenue Aoume
Dakar, Republic of Senegal
Fax: 221 33 823 1702

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the release of editor El Malick Seck.

According to our information, writer and editor of 24 Heures Chrono El Malick Seck was released from prison after receiving a presidential pardon on April 24, 2009. Seck, who was first arrested on August 28, 2008, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment on charges of offending the head of state, publishing false news, and threatening the public order after printing an editorial alleging that President Wade and his son Karim, a special adviser, were involved in money laundering. The arrest followed an attack on the premises of 24 Heures Chrono and another newspaper, L‘As, in mid-August, days after the former Transport Minister Farba Senghor threatened retaliation against the papers for publishing stories that were critical of the government.

On December 23, 2008, Seck was sentenced to an additional six months’ imprisonment and was fined $66,600 for reportedly defaming Interior Minister Sheikh Tidiane Sy. The Ministry of Culture’s Secretary General Pape Massène Sène brought yet another defamation case against Seck in which both he and a colleague received one-year suspended prison terms and FCFA 250,000 fines. Seck’s appeal was rejected on February 23, 2009, and his sentence was upheld until he received the presidential pardon last month.

Although PEN American Center is glad to hear of El Malick Seck’s release, the state of free expression in Senegal is deeply worrisome. Senegal hands out approximately 20 defamation verdicts against journalists each year, more than almost any other African country. We would like to remind you that Seck spent eight months in jail on charges that violated his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the Senegalese Constitution, as well as by the African Union’s African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Senegal is party. We therefore urge you to review Senegal’s defamation laws and any criminal restrictions on content in accordance with pledges you made in 2004 to repeal criminal penalties for press offenses.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                                             
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

Cc: His Excellency Amadou Lamine Ba
Embassy of Senegal to the United States
2112 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 332-6315

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