October 9, 2008

President of the Republic of Senegal
His Excellency President Abdoulaye Wade
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 protest the sentence handed down to editor El Malick Seck.

According to our information, on September 12, 2008, El Malick Seck, who has been detained since his arrest on August 28, was sentenced to three years in prison on charges of “offending the head of state,” “publishing false news,” and threatening public order.” His daily 24 Heures Chrono was also banned from circulation for three months. The case reportedly stems from an editorial that stated that President Wade and his son Karim, a special advisor, were implicated in laundering money stolen from a bank in the Ivory Coast. The piece is reportedly based on allegations made by an Ivorian politician in 2006. Seck has appealed the ruling and the hearing is set for October 28.

Seck’s 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 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 September 11 for their involvement in the raids.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that the criminal conviction of El Malick Seck to be in violation of 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 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Senegal is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call upon you to personally intervene to secure El Malick Seck’s immediate and unconditional release, and to review Senegal’s defamation laws and any criminal restrictions on content in line with your 2004 promise to decriminalize press offenses.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.


Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee   

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: His Exellency Amadou Ba
Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal to the U.S.
2112 Wyoming Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20008
Fax: (202) 332-6315

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