A journalist who runs a news website critical of the government in Senegal has been taken into police custody in Dakar, accusing him of disseminating “information likely to harm” security, his lawyer said.
Pape Alé Niang, who runs the private news website Dakar Matin, is famous in Senegal for his regular columns on current affairs.
He was arrested and taken into custody on Sunday at 2pm (local and GMT) at the central police station in Dakar for three “offences”, his lawyer Ciré Clédor Ly told AFP.
The police accused him of “having brought to the knowledge of the public information whose disclosure is likely to harm national defence and acts and manoeuvres likely to compromise public security and cause unrest.
The third offence relates to “a violation of professional secrecy”, according to Me Ly, who denounced “a mountain of heresy, intimidation and an attempt to muzzle the press”.
The Coordination of Press Associations (CAP), which brings together local press organisations, said in a statement that it would “provide all the assistance required” to the journalist.
The arrest of Pape Alé Niang had been announced by local media and the CAP before being confirmed to AFP by a police source. The latter did not specify the reason.
According to the local press, the arrest comes after the journalist published articles in recent days about rape accusations against Senegal’s main opposition figure, Ousmane Sonko.
Mr Sonko, 48, a declared candidate in the 2024 presidential election, was charged with rape and death threats and placed under judicial supervision in March 2021, after being targeted in February 2021 by a complaint from an employee of a beauty salon where he was going to get a massage to, according to him, treat a backache.
He was heard Thursday for the first time in this case by an investigating judge in Dakar, a case that is very closely followed in the country.
In addition, Fatou Dione, a videographer for the Buur News website, was the victim of “police violence” on Saturday during a banned demonstration in Dakar, the CAP said in a statement.
The journalist “fainted when the police came to evacuate her with unprecedented brutality,” the CAP added.
Some 20 people arrested on Saturday afternoon during the demonstration, which was banned by the Dakar prefect, were still being held on Sunday, according to the press.
The demonstration, initiated by a group of activists, was aimed at demanding the release of “political detainees”, people in prison for several weeks and presented in the press as close to the opposition.
Senegal is ranked 73rd out of 180 countries in the world press freedom index established in 2022 by the NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF).