Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Political uncertainty in Mauritania eased somewhat following July 2009 elections in which General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who had ousted former president Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdellahi in an August 2008 coup, won the presidency. However, the political changes did not dramatically alter the media landscape. Press freedom remained somewhat constricted, with a new focus on circumscribing online media during the year.
- The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press. Legal and regulatory reforms enacted in 2006 eliminated the requirement for prepublication government approval for newspapers, established journalists’ legal right to protect sources, and created the High Authority for the Press and Broadcasting (HAPA).
- Criminal defamation laws remain in force and are sometimes used to charge journalists. Those accused sometimes spend time in detention or endure long delays in the resolution of their cases.
- While journalists seemed to enjoy relative calm in 2009 despite the elections, there were a number of incidents of violence or harassment directed against the media. In January, Sidi Mohamed Ould Abderrahmane of Agence Nouakchott d’Information, a private news agency, was detained for covering a demonstration. He was later released, but the images on his camera were destroyed. In February, Isselmou Ould Abdelkader, a former legislator, was released on bail after spending three months in jail for comments he made on television. His remarks also led to the dismissal of the program’s host, Sidi Ould Lemjad, and Limam Cheikh Ould Ely, the director of Mauritania TV. In March, Abdallahi Ould Tfagha Moctar and Mohamed Lemine Ould Moustapha, reporters for the Sahara Media newswire, were detained briefly for filming the entrance of the Nouakchott prison. In May, Mamouni Ould Moctar, a reporter with Agence Nouakchott d’Information, was harassed by political party activists. Also that month, police beat journalists and briefly detained Hachem Sidi Salem, a local correspondent for the satellite television station Al-Hurra, for covering a sit-down strike by members of the National Bar Association.
- Though the Mauritanian media express a variety of views, journalists practice a degree of self-censorship in their coverage of issues such as the military, foreign diplomatic missions, corruption, and Sharia (Islamic law).
- There are 30 regularly published and privately owned newspapers. The two daily newspapers, Horizons and Chaab, are government owned, as are all broadcast media. However, Radio France Internationale rebroadcasts locally, and Mauritanians have access to international satellite television.
- The HAPA provides state subsidies to 35 independent newspapers, and most papers have access to the state’s printing press.
- Internet access is not restricted by the government, but the internet was used by only about 2.3 percent of the population in 2009. There is a noticeable growth in the use of blogs and online news outlets, though bloggers and other online content creators face the threat of arrest and detention. At various points during the year, Abou al-Abbass Ould Brahim, Hanevy Ould Dahah, and Djibril Diallo of the news website Taqadoumy were arrested as a result of their writings. While Brahim and Diallo were released after several days’ detention, Dahah was sentenced in August to a six-month prison term and a fine.