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Cablegate: Senegalese Media Blacks Out

O 231648Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0858
INFO ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS DAKAR 000857


STATE FOR AF/PDPA, AF/W AND IIP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OIIP PGOV KPAO SG
SUBJECT: SENEGALESE MEDIA BLACKS OUT

Ref: Dakar 765


1. SUMMARY: On 21 July, private Senegalese media sources observed
a news blackout as a show of solidarity in support of two Senegalese
sports journalists beaten by police on 22 June (retel). Journalists
are demanding the Government of Senegal (GOS) take punitive action
against the officers involved. Relations between the GOS and the
press remain tense after a series of incidents involving violence
against journalists or their arbitrary detention by government
authorities over the last few years. END SUMMARY.

2. On 21 July, private Senegalese media sources observed a 24-hour
news blackout as a show of solidarity in support of two Senegalese
sports journalists beaten by police on 22 June. The blackout
included daily newspapers, radio programming, and several news web
sites. State-run media, including the only news television station,
RTS, continued to operate normally.

3. Senegalese journalists are demanding the GOS take punitive
action against police officers involved in the 22 June beating of
sports journalists Boubacar Campbell Dieng (Radio Futurs Medias),
and Karamokho Thioune (West Africa Democracy Radio). The incident
occurred at Leopold Sedar Senghor stadium in Dakar as the
journalists were attempting to interview Senegalese national team
soccer players after a match against Liberia. According to the
Union of Information and Communications Professionals of Senegal
(Synpics), the assault occurred in an area where the media is
allowed to interview players and the teams' staff. After police
subdued the journalists, they were handcuffed and detained for 30
minutes before being taken to the hospital for medical treatment,
where Dieng was admitted for approximately 20 days.

4. On 9 July, after the Committee for the Defense and Protection of
Journalists (an ad-hoc organization recently formed to defend
journalists from government harassment) lodged a formal complaint,
Senegalese Minister of Interior Cheikh Tidiane Sy indicated the GOS
would investigate the incident. On 10 July (the following day) the
GOS issued a statement noting that two police officers involved in
the beatings were administratively punished and transferred to
another unit.

5. The GOS claimed, however, that police involved in the
altercation were defending themselves after being assaulted by
journalists. This statement was reinforced by the Minister of Armed
Forces Becaye Diop who noted police are regularly attacked by
civilians while on duty. (COMMENT: The claim that Senegalese police
are regularly assaulted by civilians is dubious; post has no
evidence to support this assertion. END COMMENT.)

6. Journalists remain unconvinced the GOS is serious about
restraining police and have called for an independent investigation.
The Committee has unveiled an action plan that includes street
demonstrations and other civil disobedience; the observance of a
"day without press" was part of the action plan. Relations between
the GOS and the press remain tense after increasingly frequent
incidents involving violence against journalists or their arbitrary
detention by government authorities over the last few years.


SMITH

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