The International Press Institute (IPI) calls on authorities in Senegal to release journalist Pape Ndiaye of the privately owned media house Walf TV and urges the government to repeal legislation that criminalizes the publication of false news and other provisions that continue to unjustifiably infringe on free expression.

Ndiaye was arrested on March 3, 2023 and remains imprisoned while awaiting trial. Ndiaye’s arrest and imprisonment followed comments he made on a controversial court case involving the public figure, politician and presidential candidate Ousmane Sonko.

According to reports, the journalist was charged with six counts, including publication of false information and inciting a crowd. The charges stem from one of his broadcasting programs in which Ndiaye alleged that some deputy state prosecutors were opposed to the referral of the criminal case of Ousmane Sonko, who is being tried over allegations of sexual abuse on a young woman in a massage saloon. A court in Dakar deemed the journalist’s allegation false, and ordered his arrest and detention.

On March 17, 2023, WALF TV organized a press conference to denounce the imprisonment of Ndiaye. During the conference, Moustapha Diop, director of Walf TV, said the case could have been handled by the country’s media self-regulatory body, the Council of Ethics and Deontology (CORED).

The press conference was followed by a sit-in on March 19, 2023 by journalists and media professionals to demand the release of their colleague.

Though Senegal has traditionally been considered as having a relatively strong democracy and protections for press freedom in West Africa, a recent series of arrests and attacks on journalists have called that into question. Barely one month before the arrest of Ndiaye, the media regulator, CNRA, suspended WALF TV for one week over what the regulator termed as ‘’irresponsible coverage’’ of public protest in Mbacke, a town in the center-west of Senegal.

Prominent journalist Pape Alé Niang was also arrested in November 2022 in relation to comments on the same court case involving Ousmane Sonko. He was  granted bail under stringent conditions while the case is still pending before the court.

“Authorities in Senegal should immediately release Pape Ndiaye and stop harassment of independent journalists in the country”, IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Authorities or others who believe the information published in the case is incorrect have other means to address that, including via media self-regulatory bodies. Arresting and jailing a journalist on false information charges is disproportionat and serious threat to press freedom in Senegal.”

“In addition to releasing Pape Ndiaye, we call on Senegalese lawmakers to revise the country’s legislation in line with international standards on freedom of expression by removing provisions that can be used to criminalize the work of the press, including laws on ‘false’ information.”