Journalists in Senegal are boycotting a sports award ceremony in Dakar
to protest the beatings of two reporters by police after a football
match last month. Media watchdogs say the press in Senegal faces
hostility from the police and government, and are calling for action.
For VOA, Brent Latham has more.
The reporters say they boycotted
the "Lion d'Or" awards ceremony, which gives prizes to top Senegalese
athletes and is attended by government ministers.
Dakar-based Committee for the Defense and Protection of Journalists
called for all journalists to skip the annual award ceremony.
head of the sports desk at the Senegalese Press Agency, Salif Diallo,
said he and other sports writers would definitely not be attending.
Diallo says he witnessed the aggression against reporters at the match.
journalists [were] beaten by policemen," he said. "The reporters at
the end of the match were at the mixed zone for interviews, when the
policemen came and asked for the reporters to move. The reporters
explained that they were just doing their job. When they did not move,
the policemen used their clubs. They beat them. "
One of the reporters is still hospitalized.
observers are worried such incidents are becoming frequent in Senegal.
Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders last week demanded
that President Abdoulaye Wade take action to ease tensions between the
government, police and certain journalists.
Borders Africa desk chief Leonard Vincent said recent events have
sparked concern for press freedom in Senegal.
"There are several
problems and police brutality is one very important problem," he
explained. "We have had reports of repeated incidents involving the
police and in which no sanctions were ever taken against the police
responsible for the attacks."
Committee for the Defense and
Protection of Journalists spokesman Yakham Mbaye said in addition to
Wednesday's boycott, other measures are being planned. Following a
march this past weekend that attracted hundreds of protesters in
downtown Dakar, Mbaye says the press is planning a "dead day" on which
no news would be reported.
Vincent hailed what he called the
journalists' peaceful approach to calling Mr. Wade's attention to the
matter. He said that Mr. Wade must address the lack of punishment for
those who attack journalists.
"One of the major concerns in
Senegal is the impunity of police forces and partisans of Wade, his
party, and religious leaders, all benefit from the fact that there are
no sanctions from the president," he said. "Sanctions should be
taken. Orders should be given within the police and security forces to
respect the press."
The Senegalese Ministry of the Interior, which supervises the national police, refused to comment for this report.