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)
Senegal’s press freedom climate remained tolerant in 2014 under President Macky Sall, who took office in early 2012. Many media outlets continued to produce content critical of the government, and journalists generally faced fewer instances of physical and legal harassment than in the past. However, despite promises from government officials in recent years, there was no progress in decriminalizing defamation or adopting freedom of information legislation.
Article 8 of the 2001 constitution protects freedoms of opinion, expression, and the press, and Article 10 guarantees the right to express opinions freely, in words, in writing, in images, and by peaceful assembly. These freedoms are occasionally limited in practice. Under Sall’s predecessor, Abdoulaye Wade, the government used provisions of the 1977 penal code—including Article 80, which criminalizes vaguely defined threats to national security—to harass, prosecute, fine, and incarcerate critical journalists; the use of these provisions has declined under Sall.
Although President Sall has pledged support for stronger protections for press freedom, there has been little legislative progress. In August 2014, the National Assembly rejected a proposed media code that would have decriminalized a number of press offenses. Watchdogs noted the persistence of several other laws—including Article 362 of the penal code, which prescribes fines and prison terms for libel—that can be used to limit freedom of the press. No legislation guarantees the right to access information.
The National Council of Audiovisual Regulation (CNRA), established in 2006 to replace the High Audiovisual Council (HCA), is composed of nine members appointed by the president. In its annual report for 2014, the CNRA criticized the state television station for not covering the convention of the opposition coalition of former president Wade, while simultaneously censuring the Walfadjri media group for broadcasting the very same convention.
Journalists occasionally face harassment, detention, and assault, mainly by the authorities, although such problems have declined during the Sall presidency. In August 2014, local news outlets reported that Felix N’Zale, editor of the Senegalese newspaper La Tribune, was detained by police and charged with “spreading false news” over an article he published claiming that five cases of Ebola had been identified in Senegal. N’Zale was fined and given a one-year suspended sentence.
In a separate case, Walfadjri owner Sidy Lamine Niass was detained in January 2014 for allegedly insulting Sall by accusing him of corruption. He was released the next day, and there were no reports of formal charges. In August, a former member of the Wade administration was arrested on similar charges. He was released on bail in October, and his case remained ongoing at year’s end.
Many private, independent print publications and three government-affiliated newspapers publish regularly, although they have limited reach in rural areas. Radio is the most important source of news due to high illiteracy rates, and a wide range of public, private, and community radio stations operate on more than 80 frequencies. Some community radio operators have complained that frequencies are not allocated in a transparent manner. There are at least nine private television channels, although they mainly carry entertainment programming. The state-owned Radiodiffusion Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS) generally favors the government in its news coverage, and the president oversees the selection of its 12-member board. Under Wade, the government was accused of selectively granting or withholding state subsidies to influence media outlets, a practice that appears to have continued under Sall. Foreign satellite television and radio stations, including Radio France Internationale and the British Broadcasting Corporation, are available and unrestricted. Internet access is unrestricted and reached 17 percent of the population in 2014. The rapid growth of mobile telephone use in recent years has led to wider access to news and social-networking websites for many Senegalese.