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Senegal newspaper publisher appeals 3-year sentence for insulting president

[JURIST] Senegalese publisher El Malick Seck is appealing a court ruling which sentenced him to three years in prison and closed his newspaper for three months as punishment for printing an article accusing Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade [BBC profile] and his son of money laundering, according to a defense lawyer. Seck, publisher of 24 Hours Chrono, was convicted Friday of insulting the head of state, disseminating false reports, committing acts likely to disturb the public order and concealing administrative documents. Tom Rhodes, Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website], said in a press release [text]:

Despite repeated claims by President Abdoulaye Wade to end the use of criminal libel laws, El Malick Seck faces a severe prison sentence. Troubling as well is the censorship that has been imposed on 24 Heures Chrono. Senegal's press freedom credentials are deteriorating. CPJ urges the president to adhere to his pronouncements and ensure cases such as 24 Heures Chrono are a thing of the past.
Seck's newspaper was one of two ransacked [Reuters report] last month after Transport Minister Farba Senghor, who has since been forced out of office [BBC report], publicly condemned them for reports about his personal life. Twelve suspects, including two of Senghor's bodyguards, were tried [AFP report] in connection with those raids, and were found guilty of assault and criminal association last week. They were sentenced to up to six years in prison. Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage. The Senegalese Press Agency has local coverage, in French.

Senegal's press restrictions are common to other areas of Africa. Last month, Sudanese security forces seized copies of the English-language Sudan Tribune and threatened to close the newspaper [JURIST report] if it failed to meet certain conditions. In April, the former editor of a weekly newspaper in Egypt was sentenced to six months in prison [JURIST report] after being convicted on charges of spreading "rumors" about the health of President Hosni Mubarak. Last year, two Egyptian journalists were convicted in absentia of libel [JURIST report] for writing a story about an illegal land transaction from the Ministry of Religious Endowments at a secret auction.

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