The enjoyment of fundamental freedoms is severely constrained in Mauritania as conservative religious values and overarching dominance of the state in public affairs combines to restrict people’s rights to associate, protest and speak out. In this context, human rights violations related to racism, slavery and discrimination have recently been documented. Activists who also speak out on behalf of minorities and anti-slavery activists cannot operate freely and are often arrested. Conditions in detention are dire and torture is sometimes used to extract information. Protests must be sanctioned in advance by the authorities and protesters are harassed, arrested and tortured. Despite a recent expansion of private media licenses, on the whole, journalists are not free to operate as they wish and employ self-censorship as a defence mechanism.