Singer and journalist arrested for insulting the president
In the tense political atmosphere around the 30th July parliamentary elections, singer Amy Collé Dieng and journalist Ouleye Mané were arrested for uploading and sharing content on social media deemed "insulting" of President Macky Sall.
Singer Ami Colle Dieng was arrested on 8th August for "offence of the Head of State" and "spreading false news", following the release of a video in which she criticised the president, stating that "the head of state is a cold bandit, a manipulator who imprisons innocent people and is ready to do anything to stay in power". She also allegedly called him a "sneaky lizard", a word that in the Wolof language is considered highly disrespectful. Offending the Head of State is punishable by a prison sentence of six months to two years and a fine of 100,000 to 1,500,000 CFA (180 to 2,700 USD). According to media reports, Colle Dieng was provisionally released on 14th August after a hearing in front of a court judge.
On 30th June 2017, journalist and cartoonist Ouleye Mané was arrested on charges of "publishing pictures which offend public morality". The charges referred to him sharing a cartoon of President Sall on Whatsapp. The cartoon depicted the president with a naked body on his chest, which was deemed offensive. Three other people were also detained for further sharing the cartoon on Whatsapp. Mané was released on 11th August after six weeks of detention. Boubacar Boly, Director of the Convention des Jeunes Reporteurs du Senegal (CJRS), stated the following to the Media Foundation of West Africa regarding the cartoonist's case:
"Cartoon is a form of expression for journalists. Although we do not encourage insults and any form of denigration of the image of the president, this is a matter of journalistic responsibility and not of legality".
In an open letter to human rights and press freedom organisations on 11th August, the Association des Editeurs et Professionels de la Presse en Ligne (APPEL: Association of Editors and Professionals of the Online Press) noted and denounced the acts of intimidation and threats made by the Public Prosecutor’s Office against website administrators publishing content on social media. In a communiqué issued on 4th August, the Public Prosecutor warned authors of offensive comments or images on the internet and on social media, as well as site administrators and moderators, of the threat of prosecution for cyber crime under the Penal Code, which can carry a prison sentence of up to ten years. In addition, APPEL noted that some of its members had been threatened and intimidated.
Furthermore, the Association Sénégalaise des Utilisateurs des TIC (ASUTIC) denounced the restrictions on freedom of expression in the May 2017 draft amendments of the 2011 Code on Electronic Communications. In particular, article 28 is feared to limit freedom of expression by legalising censorship as it would allow operators to monitor, filter, slow down or even block content, services or communications in general via the web under "reasonable measures" taken to manage internet traffic.
Five days before the 30th July parliamentary elections, the former president of Senegal and leader of the opposition, Abdoulaye Wade, organised a protest in Dakar that was violently repressed by security officers using tear gas. The protest was initially banned by the prefect because it planned to go through the city centre, where protests are forbidden according to a 2011 order. The protesters had mobilised to denounce the government's delay in issuing voters’ ID cards.
The social movement Y’en a Marre (Enough is Enough) organised a peaceful anti-government protest on 7th April 2017 to condemn the poor governance of the country. Closer to the elections, on 24th July 2017 they launched the campaign 'Sama Carte, Damay Voté' (My card, I vote) during a press conference denouncing the slow distribution of voter ID cards just days before the elections. After the elections, on 17th August Y'en a Marre announced in a communiqué its intent to file a complaint at the ECOWAS Court of Justice on the issue of voter ID card distributions prior to the elections.