- A Mauritanian journalist has been detained and questioned by local police officers after he wrote a news report denouncing the same police department for abuse of force. Press freedom groups protest what they conceive as an attempt of intimidation by the Mauritanian police.
According to reports by the Ghana-based Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the Nouadhibou correspondent of an independent Mauritanian newspaper last week was intimidated by local police officers, reacting to a news story written by him. Nouadhibou, located 400 kilometres north of the capital, Nouakchott, is the main urban centre in northern Mauritania. The town on the Western Sahara border is dominated by the military forces and the gendarme.
Aïdahy Ould Saleck is the regional correspondent of the Nouakchott independent "L'Eveil Hebdo" weekly newspaper. Mr Saleck last week was held for questioning by police in Nouadhibou and was detained at the police station and interrogated for more than four hours, MFWA reports
The editor-in-chief of "L'Eveil Hebdo", Diop Moussa, told a Mauritania representative of the Media Foundation for West Africa that Mr Saleck was questioned in connection with a story which appeared in the 1 June edition of the weekly paper. The story entitled, "Police Abuses" reported a 25 May incident during which some police personnel beat up a citizen.
The Nouadhibou police officers also allegedly dragged the man to the police station, took away his money, and humiliated him by stripping him naked. The article by Mr Saleck also recounted daily police acts of intimidation and brutality against the local population.
Nouadhibou is located at the troubled border with Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and is reputed for its military dominance. The major fisheries centre is said to be an unpopular location among police and military personnel although the military forces in practical terms are controlling the town. Freedom of movement and expression is known to be vigorously controlled in Nouadhibou.
The MFWA today condemned "the arrest and intimidation" of journalist Saleck in Nouadhibou, saying it "infringes the constitutional and universally guaranteed rights of journalists and other persons to the fundamental freedoms of thought and expression." The press freedom group has sent a protest letter to Mauritanian President Maaouiya Ould Taya and urges others to join the protest.
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