14 September 2018

West Africa: Two Senior Journalists Slapped With Fines

press release

Two Mauritanian journalists who were arrested and detained over defamation charges have been sentenced to fines by a correctional court in Nouakchott.

Babacar Baye N'Diaye, webmaster of Cridem, and Mohamdi Ould Saibott, director of publication of Taqadoum, both news websites, were found guilty of defamation and sentenced on September 6, 2018. They will each pay a sum of 900,000 Mauritanian Ouguiya (equivalent to US$ 2,500) to the plaintiff, Jemal Ould Mohamed Taleb.

They were also slapped with the equivalent of US$ 50 each in legal costs and ordered to publish the court decision in three newspapers with "wide circulation at their own expense".

N'Diaye and Saïbott were detained on August 8 and released on August 15 following a defamation complaint by Jemal Ould Mohammed Taleb, a France-based Mauritanian. The complaint was in relation to an article originally published by the French magazine Mondeafrique which was republished by the two local news websites.

The MFWA is disappointed with the pre-trial detention of the two journalists and their eventual conviction.We find the fines excessive, given the fragile media economy of Mauritania. For instance, workers of the state publishing company, which prints all newspapers in the country as part of government subvention, have been on strike for months, grounding the newspaper industry. Additionally, many financially challenged TV and radio stations in that country have been shut for non-payment of license fees.

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