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Country in Focus: Senegal

Population GDP/Capita USD Capital City 2018 XpA Scores
15,854,000 1,522 Dakar Freedom of Expression: 0.75
ICCPR ratified 1978 In 2018, Senegal sits at the top of the 2nd quartile. Civic Space: 0.76

Constitution of Senegal 2001 (revised 2016)

TITLE II, ARTICLE 8

The Republic of Senegal guarantees to all citizens the fundamental individual freedoms, the economic and social rights as well as the collective rights. These freedoms and rights are notably:

  • the civil and political freedoms: freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement [déplacemnent], [and] freedom of manifestation
Digital: 0.62
Media: 0.75
Protection: 0.82
Transparency: 0.75

 

The downturn of Senegal’s XpA score compared with 2017 is concerning, given the country’s impressive record of tolerating press freedom and respecting other civil liberties. The sharp deterioration in 2018 is all the more disturbing because the country is gearing up for elections in 2019.[1]

Figure 10: 

In Senegal, the Media Foundation for West Africa registered 1 killing, 7 physical attacks, 3 arrests/detentions and 4 seizures of equipment during 2018 – a significant rise from 2017, when there was only 1 violation.[2] The focus of repression seemed to move to protest in 2018, away from persecuting those deemed to have insulted the president.[3]

Though Senegal is among the most stable of the region’s democracies, and is known for its relatively independent media, it maintains a number of legal provisions that do not meet international standards. Its controversial 2017 press code increased punishments for defamation offences, allowed authorities to shut down press outlets without judicial approval, and enabled the government to block internet content deemed ‘contrary to morality’.[4]

Other ongoing challenges include government corruption, weak rule of law, judicial independence, and inadequate protections for the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people.[5]

Protest rights consistently restricted and violated

Protest in Senegal requires giving prior notice to the authorities, and high-profile public spaces have a ban on any assembly, according to new regulations. Throughout 2018, the government cracked down on assembly rights by banning protests, refusing to authorise a number of demonstrations, and violently dispersing peaceful gatherings.

Twenty people, including law-enforcement officers, were injured in the clashes that followed students demonstrating against working conditions and the late payment of scholarships. Student Mouhamadou Fallou Sene was killed during clashes between the police and students of the Gaston Berger University of Saint-Louis.[6]

In March, the Senegalese Democratic Party organised a march to protest against malfunctions in the 2017 elections. Authorities fired tear gas at the peaceful protesters.[7] In September, tear gas was also fired at an opposition-organised march, and opposition leaders were arrested.[8]

Clampdown on journalists and online communicators

Several journalists, who provided critical coverage of the government or gave a platform to critics of the regime, were attacked or detained in 2018.

In January, a police officer assaulted the reporter Selle Mbaye, who was briefly detained while filming the trial of Khalifa Sall, a Mayor of Dakar ultimately jailed for embezzlement. In April, Serigne Diagne – director of the news site Dakaractu – was arrested at the outlet’s headquarters, and detained along with three employees.

The police had arrived to apprehend Barthélémy Dias, who was scheduled to appear on a Dakaractu programme and had criticised the Khalifa Sall verdict earlier that day. The journalists were released after several hours.

In November 2018, the National Assembly passed a Bill on electronic communications, which included a vaguely worded provision that expanded the government’s regulatory power over social media companies. Rights activists expressed concern that the law could be used to shut down, tax, or surveil communications on popular social media platforms.[9]

 

 

[1] Media Foundation for West Africa, Freedom of Expression Monitor January–December 2018, available at http://www.mfwa.org/publication/freedom-of-expression-monitor-january-december-2018/

[2] Media Foundation for West Africa, Freedom of Expression Monitor January–December 2018, available at http://www.mfwa.org/publication/freedom-of-expression-monitor-january-december-2018/

[3] ARTICLE 19, Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Senegal, 5 October 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Updated-Senegal-UPR-A19-Oct-2018-1.pdf

[4] Freedom House, ‘Senegal’, Freedom in the World 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/senegal

[5] Freedom House, ‘Senegal’, Freedom in the World 2019, available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/senegal

[6] ARTICLE 19, Senegal: Excessive Use of Force Against Protesters Threatens Rights, 18 May 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/blog/resources/senegal-lusage-excessif-de-la-force-contre-les-manifestants-menace-lexercice-des-libertes/

[7] ARTICLE 19, Submission to the Universal Periodic Review, 5 October 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Updated-Senegal-UPR-A19-Oct-2018-1.pdf

[8] ARTICLE 19, Submission to the Universal Periodic Review, 5 October 2018, available at https://www.article19.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Updated-Senegal-UPR-A19-Oct-2018-1.pdf

[9] ARTICLE 19, ‘Sénégal: Projet de loi portant code des communications électroniques, ARTICLE 19 et d’autres organisations de la société civile sonnent l’alerte’, 2018, available at http://article19ao.org/senegal-projet-de-loi-portant-code-des-communications-electroniques-des-organisations-de-la-societe-civile-sonnent-lalerte/