Cablegate: Senegal: Journalists Beaten by Police

DE RUEHDK #0765 1821631
R 301631Z JUN 08




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: SENEGAL: Journalists Beaten by Police

1. (SBU) On June 21, 2008 two sports journalists, Boubabcar Dieng
and Karamoko Thioune working for local radio stations were severely
beaten by police after the conclusion of a soccer match between
Liberia and Senegal. According to reports the journalists were then
taken into temporary on-site custody were they were further beaten.
In response, Senegalese media have been protestng all week
culminating with an extremely well atended march on Saturday 28.
The Ministry of Intrior has announced that an investigation has
been launched. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Following Senegal's victory over Liberia on Saturday 21
June, Bouboucar Dieng, who works for the Youssou Ndour owned Radio
Futurs Media (RFM,) wanted to interview the players of the
Senegalese national soccer team in a press area that was designated
for that purpose. According to his account, the police would not
let him near the players even after he identified himself as a
journalist. He then said that words were exchanged after which
members of Multiple-Purpose Intervention Brigade (Brigade
D'Intervention Polyvalante-BIP), who were assigned to protect the
players, kicked him and then attacked with batons and tasers. The
reporter had the presence of mind to tape record his beating which
was subsequently aired on local media outlets. In a separate but
similar incident in the same area, a reporter from West Africa
Democracy Radio (WADR), Karamoko Thioune was also beaten by the
police and hospitalized.

3. (SBU) As a reaction to these acts of aggression Senegalese media
from TV to Radio have been taking the government and the police
force to task. Multiple protests have taken place throughout the
week in various cities across the country and many angry letters
have been co-written by media and Human Rights organizations. The
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also sent a scathing letter
to President Abdoulaye Wade accusing him of not doing enough to
protect journalists and noting a sharp rise the number of reporters
that have been beaten or arrested in the past year. In a statement
the Minister of Interior, Cheikh Tidiane Sy, said that he was
launching a full investigation but underlined that no conclusion
could be reached until all the evidence had been gathered. However,
the officers involved have been re-assigned to other duties. In a
similar statement the Minister of Information, Aliou Sow, said that
he was awaiting the end of the investigation before deciding on how
to proceed.

4. (SBU) On Saturday 28, over ten thousand people took to the
streets of Dakar to peacefully protest the beatings. The protesters
booed the police who were on the scene but there were no reports of
violence. In St Louis, local press staged a sit-in outside the
Governor's office after which they submitted a document critical of
both the police and the government.


5. (SBU) As was reported in the 2007 human rights report for
Senegal, the harassment and arbitrary arrests and release of
journalist were commonplace. Since his re-election in 2007 the
media has remained as one of the few challengers to President's
growing authority. That being said, the events of last week were
probably a case of over-reaction by an amped-up police force. Post
will keep track of this case, and include it in the 2008 Human
Rights Report, to see whether or not the government holds true to
its word to fully investigate the matter. Police are seldom jailed
in Senegal for such acts and this case represents a test for both
the government and Senegal's judiciary as unlike previous beatings
this was not politically motivated. Furthermore, many witnesses,
including the Moroccan referee of the match, were present during the
beatings and would most likely testify in favor of the victims.

© Scoop Media

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