- Papa Moussa Guèye, Director of the private daily 'L'Exclusif', has joined the list of Senegalese journalists sentenced on criminal defamation charges within a week. He was found guilty of "publishing false news."
Mr Guèye was handed a six-month suspended prison term by a court in the capital Dakar. His troubles began after his paper published an article on President Abdoulaye Wade's alleged late night "escapades" last year. Apart from being arrested, Guèye's office situated outside Dakar, was also raided by the police.
The court acquitted the author of the story Pape Moussa Doukar. It also dismissed several serious criminal charges against Guèye under Senegal's penal code. This included "offense to the head of state" and "acts that might compromise public security or cause serious political disturbance," in breach of a notorious national security provision of Article 80.
Guèye has regretted using the word "escapades" to describe alleged outings by President Wade and his Chief of Staff, although he stood by the story. Believing that he will be denied justice in "politically-influenced courts," Guèye said he will not file an appeal against the judgment.
Media rights watchdogs have called on Senegalese authorities to end a pattern of criminal defamation prosecution against the press.
"Using criminal laws against Papa Moussa Guèye and other independent journalists chills the press into self-censorship," said Tom Rhodes, Africa Program Coordinator of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
"It is time for President Wade to honor his pledge for legal reform in line with Senegal's claims to democratic credentials," he said.
Tuesday's ruling came a week after Director Jules Diop and Editor-in-Chief Serigne Saliou Samb of private daily newspaper 'L'Observateur' were handed six-month suspended prison sentences and heavy damages over a critical story.
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