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.

The Dakar-based Committee for the Defense and Protection of Journalists called for all journalists to skip the annual award ceremony.

The 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.

"The 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.  

Many 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.  

Reporters without 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.