Editor Sentenced to Three Years’ Imprisonment
International PEN is outraged by the three-year prison sentence imposed on El Malick Seck, editor of the Dakar daily 24 Heures Chrono, on September 12, 2008, for a piece implicating President Abdoulaye Wade in money laundering. PEN believes that Seck has been convicted for exercising his right to freedom of expression, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
According to PEN’s information, on September 12, 20008, 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 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 that hearing is set for October 28. 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 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.
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 offenses, 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.
Write A Letter
- Protesting the three-year prison sentence imposed on El Malick Seck, editor of the Dakar daily 24 Heures Chrono, which PEN 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 a signatory;
- 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 decriminalize press offenses and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
Send Your Letter To
President of the Republic of Senegal
His Excellency President Abdoulaye Wade
Office of the President
Dakar, Republic of Senegal
Fax: + 221 33 823 1702
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representatives of Senegal in your country if posibble.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after November 2, 2008: ftw [at] pen.org