Authorities withdraw NGO's license to operate
Draft Code on Electronic Communication violates net neutrality, says civil society
In October 2018, several civil society organisations and opinion leaders in Senegal issued a statement asking members of Parliament to amend article 27 of the draft Code on Electronic Communications,which they claim endangers the neutrality of the internet under the guise of 'reasonable measures of traffic management'. These 'measures' can be applied by operators, on the basis of technical and security considerations and by the regulatory authority - the Autorité de Régulation des Télécommunications et des Postes (ARTP) - who 'may authorise or impose any measure of the management of traffic that it deems useful to, in particular, preserve competition in the electronic communications sector and ensure the fair treatment of similar services'. It is feared that these provisions will give the regulatory authority and operators the power to block, slow down, filter and even monitor content. Additionally, the CSOs say, that it could negatively affect the development of the digital economy. In the statement they further said:
"Thus, a legal framework for internet censorship is created in the run-up to the presidential elections of February 2019. This could pose a real threat to the transparency of the presidential election of February 2019 with the cut or the slowdown of the access to the Internet and the blocking of social networks during the voting process and the provisional announcement of the results." (translated from French)
The draft bill was approved by the Council of Ministers on 6th June 2018.
Attacks on journalists
On 30th October 2018, cameramen and correspondent of the news website Kewoulo.fr Serigne Dione was attacked by a group of men close to Bocar Moussa Thiam, the mayor of Ourossogui. The attack happened while he was interviewing the mayor's political rival, Moussa Dia. Dione had gone to Ourossogui, in Matam Region in north-eastern Senegal, to report on living conditions. During the interview with Moussa Dia, who had been critical of the mayor's leadership, both Serigne Dione as Moussa Dia were assaulted, and Dione's camera destroyed.
Le Quotidien journalist Mamadou Sakine was head-butted by a gendarme outside of the Court of Appeal in Dakar on 3rd September 2018, after the journalist protested against the confiscation of his phone by the gendarme. The phone was seized after the journalist took pictures of an act of violence against a women at the hands of the gendarme. After protest of other journalists at the scene, the phone was returned to Sakine.
Govt of Senegal suspend license of NGO @LeadAfrique over 'irregular financing'.— Samira Sawlani (@samirasawlani) 19 November 2018
Employees of the organization say it is being targeted due to its relationship with Social movement Y'en a Marre (Fed Up), which is known to be critical of Govt:
(Documents received via whatsapp) pic.twitter.com/munCxi4TTX
Authorities withdraw NGO Lead Afrique francophone's license to operate in Senegal
In a decree signed by the Minister of Interior on 5th November 2018, and delivered on 16th November, authorities have withdrawn the decree authorising the creation of the foreign association Lead Afrique francophone, hereby banning the association's activities on the territory of Senegal. Authorities used the grounds of 'irregular financing' benefiting the social movement Y'en a marre (We are fed up). The move follows the interrogation of representatives of Enda Tiers-Monde (ENDA TM), Oxfam and OSIWA at the Central Commissariat of Dakar on 13th November 2018 in the context of an investigation into alleged funding of Y'en a marre. Director of Lead Afrique francophone, Moussa Mbaye Gueye, said to RFI:
"We carry out research / action projects throughout the territory that relate to the fight against climate change or the economic empowerment of women. The withdrawal of our license to operate in Senegal is due to the special relationship we have with the movement "Y'en a marre." (translated from French)
On 17th November 2018, a collective of CSOs, including Article 19 Senegal, Amnesty International Senegal, Forum Social Sénégalais and Rencontre africaine pour la défense des Droits de l'Homme (RADDHO) issued a statement condemning the actions of the authorities. They said:
"...it can be noted that there have been repeated attempts by the public authorities for some time to reduce the public space for the expression of citizens and civil society organisations through threats and acts of intimidation that can not thrive in our democracy that bestows individual and collective freedoms and citizen participation in its fundamental charter and in most of the legal texts organising the Senegalese republic." (translated from French)
Trials against opposition leaders in #Senegal with trumped up charges must end. The government must guarantee fair trials and end their crackdown on dissent. Politics and the judiciary must remain separate to be meaningful.#AllTalkNoAction— Netsanet D. Belay (@NetsanetDBelay) 15 August 2018
Intimidation, harassment, unfair trials of opposition
In its United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission, Amnesty International has raised concerns on the intimidation, harassment and unfair trials of several high level opposition members, among other concerns. On 2nd July 2018, the Minister for Interior refused the registration of Karim Wade, son of ex-president Abdoulaye Wade, as a presidential candidate on the basis of his criminal record. In March 2015, Wade was sentenced to a prison sentence of six years for 'illegal enrichment', he was later released from prison in June 2016 after a presidential pardon was issued. In March 2018, former mayor of Dakar Khalifa Sall was sentenced to 5 years in prison for fraudulent use of public funds. Sall was arrested in March 2017. For opposing Sall's verdict, opposition member and mayor of Dakar's district of Mermoz-Sacré-Coeur Barthélémy Dias was sentenced to six months in prison in April 2018 for contempt of court.
The Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ruled in June 2018 that Khalifa Sall's detention was arbitrary and his trial was unfair. Similarly, in January 2016 the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention upheld its 2015 Opinion that the detention of Karim Wade was arbitrary.
Manifestation de l’opposition interdite cet après-midi à Dakar. Les rassemblements ne sont pas autorisés au centre ville depuis 2011. Importante présence policière et dispersion sous les gaz lacrymogènes. Interpellation de plusieurs personnalités de l’opposition. #kebetu pic.twitter.com/xEInNPKmPy— Margot Chevance (@MargotChevance) 4 September 2018
On 4th September 2018, police arrested several opposition protesters and leaders in Dakar. Tear gas was also used to discourage people from demonstrating. The protest, organised by the opposition coalition Front de résistance nationale (National Resistance Front), was intended to take place in front of the Ministry of Interior, which was sealed off by riot police checkpoints. The protest 'to defend democracy' was organised in response to the exclusion of opposition leaders Karim Wade and Khalifa Sall as candidates for the presidential elections through court decisions (see also under Association). Protesters also called for an independent authority to organise the elections instead of the Ministry of Interior. The protest was previously banned by the prefect of Dakar on grounds of a 2011 decree that forbids protests in the centre of Dakar.
In preceding months, several opposition protests took place in Dakar to put pressure on president Macky Sall to review the electoral process. The opposition descended on the streets on 13th July 2018 and 13th August 2018.
Strike Agence de presse sénégalaise
In a separate development, the Senegalese Press Agency (APS) started a strike on 6th September 2018 to protest against the late payment of wages and other reasons related to the financial difficulties of APS. In January 2018, president Sall committed to support APS, but has this has not materialised, according to a member of the Syndicat national des professionnels de l'information et de la communication (Synpics; National Union of Information and Communication Professionals). The strike was renewed on 19th September for 48 hours.