Senegalese investigative journalist repeatedly charged with defamation after reporting on corruption
Transparency International (TI), the global anti-corruption organisation, and Forum Civil, its chapter in Senegal, are concerned about the prosecution for criminal defamation and harassment of journalist Abdou Latif Coulibaly resulting from his investigative reporting on corruption and human rights violations in Senegal.
Coulibaly, an investigative reporter based in Senegal, won TI’s annual Integrity Award in 2005 for his outspoken critique of financial scandals, embezzlement cases, and irregularities in public contracting in Senegal. He is a founding member of the first private press group SudCom, and he is the editor in chief of La Gazette. Over the years, he has suffered serious political pressure and death threats for his investigations into allegations of corruption.
Government prosecutors have charged Coulibaly with criminal defamation in three cases related to publication of articles criticising the government and accusing public leaders of corruption. Coulibaly was recently found guilty in one of the cases which concerned the granting of a national telephone network license. He was given a one-month suspended jail sentence with a fine of 20 million CFA francs (US$41,334). The case is being appealed. Mr. Coulibaly is on trial in two other defamation cases where one plaintiff is requesting over 500 million CFA (US$1 million). Mr. Coulibaly is also being charged with illegal possession of government documents.
Over the years, many Senegalese journalists have been subject to criminal defamation charges while some have been subject to physical attacks and press organisations have had their offices vandalised.
TI warns that charges of criminal defamation are an indirect form of intimidation and will only exacerbate journalists’ self-censorship.
Accusing journalists of criminal defamation is strongly condemned by the international community and is contrary to an international trend to abolish this charge. The United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Organization of American States (OAS) have joined with human rights organisations and journalist protection organisations to call for the abolition of criminal defamation laws.
TI and its network of 90 chapters around the world, as well as the 200 member strong UNCAC Coalition will remain close observers of the plight of investigative journalists in Senegal.
Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption, with a Secretariat based in Berlin.
Note to editors: Forum Civil is the local affiliate of Transparency International with a membership of several thousand Senegalese citizens.
For further information on criminal defamation see Joint Declaration of by the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the OSCE Representative on freedom of the media, and the OAS Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, “International Mechanisms for Promoting Freedom of Expression,” December 10, 2002, http://www.osce.org/fom/39838. The UNCAC Coalition is a network of over 200 organisations monitoring the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
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