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ARTICLE 19 condemns attacks against Wal Fadjri media group and its journalists

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The management of Wal Fadjri told ARTICLE 19 on the phone that the 'talibes' (disciples) of religious leader Serigne Modou Kara Mbacke broke into the premises of the broadcasting company at 14h45 on 25 September 2009 wielding clubs and iron bars. The disciples wrecked part of the equipment in the marketing department and sacked the office of the head of administration.

According to the same sources, the CEO of Wal Fadjri was arrested outside his house by the disciples as he was about to board a taxi for his office, and was forcibly taken to Mbacke's house before being released.

The attack followed the publication of an article stating that a religious leader was supporting the Senegalese President in return for donations. The article was published by Wal Fadjri daily and quoted in the daily press review of Wal Fadjri.

ARTICLE 19 expresses serious concern over the repeated attacks against the media in Senegal. ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Agnes Callamard, says: "This attack undermines the safety of journalists and media groups in Senegal and is a serious violation of the right to freedom of expression."

The public prosecutor at the Court of Appeal issued a statement shortly after the attack, "instructing the State Prosecutor to launch an immediate inquiry in order to identify and take in for questioning any individual involved in the attack".

"I strongly hope that this attack shall not remain unpunished and that this statement shall not be in vain," said an emotional Jean Meissa Diop, editor of the daily Walf Grand-Place, one of the group's publications.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the authorities to launch an immediate independent inquiry and bring the perpetrators before the courts.

"This act of vandalism is not acceptable in a democratic country", deplores Agnes Callamard. "Such attacks are aimed at imposing a system of censorship and self-censorship. The fact that they are perpetrated by non-state groups does in no way reduce the responsibility of the State, which, according to international human rights standards, should make all the necessary arrangements to protect the media against such attacks. The very future of the rule of law in the country is at stake."
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