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Senegal, Mali Media Protest Jailing of Editor - 2004-07-16

Independent journalists in Senegal say they will stage a protest against the jailing of an editor one week ago, which they claim was politically motivated.

Independent Senegalese journalists have rallied behind editor Madiambal Diagne, who was arrested last week for publishing articles the government says contained false and confidential information.

Journalists in the capital, Dakar, claim the arrest was politically motivated, and say they will hold protests to pressure the government to release him.

A Ministry of Communication official in Dakar, Madieye Mbodj, says he hopes the problem will be resolved next week.

"Mr. Diagne is in jail," he said. "The government says it is a problem of justice. They can't give instructions directly to the judge in order to make him free, but there are discussions between the Ministry of Justice, the editors and human rights organizations, and we hope that by about next Monday, there will be a solution."

A member of the watchdog group, the International Press Institute, David Dadge, says Senegal's government needs a lesson in democracy.

"I think Le Quotidien and the managing editor, in many ways, seem to be paying for their criticism of government. And, I think there's a wider problem here," Mr. Dadge said. "It's probably a West Africa problem, and that's about participatory democracy. In the past, governments have been extremely intolerant of criticism from newspapers. It's almost as if you need to show governments in some parts of Africa how to deal with what is a traditional democracy. You receive criticism from newspapers, and you have to deal with that."

Mr. Dadge says he's impressed by the solidarity shown by media in other countries in the region. In neighboring Mali, journalists staged a sit-in outside the Senegalese Embassy Friday to protest the arrest, and express support for freedom of speech.