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Police hinder Senegalese station’s coverage of violent protests over prices

Police hinder Senegalese station’s coverage of violent protests over prices
Angry and hungry: People shop at Castor market in Senegal's capital Dakar March 15, 2008. African governments, which often face catastrophic droughts, floods and crop failures, are now confronting spiralling inflation and creeping deficits as they seek to contain popular anger over rising food prices. Picture taken March 15, 2008.Photo: Reuters / Ricci Shryock

Police in the Senegalese capital of Dakar assaulted a reporter who was covering a violent anti-government protest on Sunday. They later raided the reporter’s station and confiscated footage, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has reported quoting local journalists and news reports.

Walf TV reporter Ousmane Mangane told New York-based CPJ that riot police used Tasers on him as he was attempting to interview an opposition member of parliament, Mously Diakhaté, on live television. Police spokesman Alioune Ndiaye said 24 arrests were made on Sunday after police dispersed the demonstration, which was led by consumer advocacy groups who were protesting against price hikes in food, fuel, and other basic staples.

Shortly after 5:30 pm local time, two plainclothes agents from the police’s Criminal Investigation Division arrived at Walf’s studios and ordered the station to hand over copies of the footage, according to Walf TV Programmes Director Aïssatou Diop Fall. Officers did not provide a reason, but said the order came from the government, Fall said.

The station’s exclusive live coverage of clashes between police and demonstrators protesting rises in consumer prices was unprecedented in Senegal, according to local journalists.

“It is not the role of security forces to police the airwaves,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is unacceptable to storm stations and demand footage with no legal order to back the action. We call on the police to return the confiscated footage to Walf.”

In a telephone interview with CPJ Monday, police spokesman Ndiaye said he did not know which governmental authority had ordered the raid. The police department “is not limited in its actions,” he said.

The president of Senegal’s official broadcast media regulator, the National Council of Broadcasting Regulation (known by its French acronym, CNRA), Nancy Ndiaye Ngom, declined Monday to comment on the matter via telephone. Ngom, a magistrate by trade, heads a nine-member board of presidential appointees mandated to regulate broadcasting, according to CPJ research.

Walf TV, part of the Walf media group, which publishes leading independent newspaper Wal Fadjri, is one of four private television channels in Senegal. Programme Director Fall said the raid would not deter the station from future live coverage.

“The security forces behaved in a manner unworthy of Senegalese democracy,” Paris-based Reporters sans frontières (RSF) said. “Erasing pictures of clashes and preventing them being shown on TV is not an effective way of keeping order. Instead of flexing its muscles and pushing the opposition into more radical positions, the government would do better to ensure that the public is freely informed of what is happening in the capital.”

The protest against hikes in the price of basic staples, organised by the Association of Senegalese Consumers (ASCOSEN), was dispersed violently by the police force’s Mobile Intervention Group (GMI) at around 4 pm. Backed by several opposition politicians, the march had been banned by the prefect of Dakar.

Date posted: April 1, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 667