More than 70 obstacles to reporters' work in three years: journalism at a crossroads in Senegal

rapport sénégal reporters sans frontières RSF presse journalisme médias

In its new report, ‘Senegalese journalism at a crossroads’, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reveals that, from 2021 to 2024, more than 60 journalists have been arrested, assaulted, questioned or detained. Polarisation, political interference and disinformation have increased. Faced with this worrying picture, the arrival in power of new authorities in Senegal is an opportunity for the scarred face of the media to heal, and for the country to once again become a driving force in the defence of the right to information throughout the region and in Africa.

In three years, Senegal has slipped from 49th to 94th place in RSF's World Press Freedom Index. As far as the right to information is concerned, the new government has a great deal of work to do in Senegal to strengthen the protection of journalists, transparency and the economic sustainability of the media. 

Since March 2021, dozens of journalists have been attacked, arrested, prosecuted or detained, the polarisation of the media has increased, and the political world has shown itself to be a troubling force, even going so far as to cut off social networks and suspend media licences. 

RSF's new report, Le journalisme sénégalais à la croisée des chemins (“Senegalese journalism at a crossroads”), looks back at these three years of turmoil for the media and proposes, in 30 recommendations, concrete prospects for the protection of journalists, media pluralism and the fight against disinformation. 

“After three years of free fall, it's high time Senegal got back on track in terms of press freedom. The arrival of President Bassirou Diomaye Faye, who promised in particular to abolish prison sentences for press offences and to protect the work of journalists, is an opportunity to carry out fundamental reforms to guarantee the right to information in Senegal. RSF has formulated some thirty recommendations to the new authorities and the players in the Senegalese media landscape to ensure that the country once again becomes a model in the sub-region.

Sadibou Marong,
Director of RSF's Sub-Saharan Africa office

On Monday 3 June, RSF presented its report to Alioune Sall, Senegal's Minister of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Technologies, who said he was “listening to what we have to say in order to carry out the necessary work”.

The recommendations were presented to him in a context which demonstrates that they are particularly necessary. A few days before the meeting, two newspaper editors had been summoned and questioned for several hours by the gendarmerie for articles about a senior army officer. 

Five key facts from the report: 

1. More than 30 journalists victims of police violence

Over the period 2021-2024, coverage of socio-political demonstrations became the main breeding ground for press freedom violations, most of which were committed by the police. RSF recorded 34 attacks by security forces, ranging from confiscation of professional equipment to physical assault, mainly during demonstrations.

2. At least 15 journalists arrested and questioned

Journalists perceived as being critical of the government, such as the director of DakarMartin Pape Alé Niang and journalists from Walf TV, were mainly targeted, sometimes charged with trumped-up offences such as ‘spreading false news’ and ‘usurping the position of journalist’.

3. Suspension of the Internet, social networks and Walf TV

The former authorities cut off Internet access four times in the space of nine months. These decisions, taken unilaterally by the then Ministry of Communication, set a dangerous precedent. On two other occasions, the Ministry overruled the National Audiovisual Regulatory Council (CNRA), suspending Walf TV in June 2023 and withdrawing its licence in February 2024. The private television channel, which is part of the Walfadjri press group, and its journalists have regularly been targeted by the authorities in recent years. 

4. Cyber-harassment of journalists with impunity

Several journalists, including EnQuête reporter Mor Amar, have been targeted by cyber-harassment campaigns, frequently set up by political activists. According to RSF, none of the four complaints lodged has resulted in an investigation. 

5. Political interference and disinformation

One of the most important disinformation campaigns was the one waged by the former authorities to portray civilians armed by the forces of law and order at demonstrations as individuals threatening the rule of law. France 24's editorial team deconstructed this narrative. The electoral context has seen a proliferation of content posing as media to influence the campaign in favour of a particular political party. While there is often a close relationship between media owners and political figures, the lack of safeguards to guarantee the editorial independence of newsrooms still leaves too much room for political interference. 


Based on these observations, RSF has formulated more than 30 recommendations, including the following:

  • Abolish custodial sentences for press offences 

The Press Code passed in 2017 provides for heavy custodial sentences for press offences. It is recommended that the authorities abolish these penalties and ensure that no journalist is deprived of his or her freedom for exercising his or her profession.

  • Better protection for whistleblowers as journalistic sources

Journalists, particularly investigative journalists, often rely on whistleblowers to fulfil their mission of providing independent information. The law on the protection of whistleblowers should recognise them as journalistic sources who benefit from the confidentiality protection regime.

  • Greater transparency in the media and their funding 

More precise rules relating to the transparency of the media, in particular those broadcasting general information programmes, should be introduced into the law. These rules should relate in particular to media ownership – for example, an obligation to declare a company's ownership structure and its links with other companies owned by its owners.

  • Supporting local media such as community radio stations 

Community media are an essential link in the information chain in Senegal. As well as providing access to information, they contribute to social cohesion within and between communities, using local languages. If they are not to disappear, they need more financial support, they need to be allowed to carry out commercial activities, and articles 187 and 190 of the Press Code need to be amended to this end.

  • Promoting reliable and independent journalism: a tool in the fight against disinformation

The Senegalese government could encourage the media to join the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) certification process initiated by RSF to promote the production of reliable information. To this end, tax deductions could be granted both to the media that go through the certification process (on their audit costs, social security contributions, etc.) and to market players that invest in these certified media (advertisers, sponsorship, subscriptions, etc.). 

To date, some fifty Senegalese media have embarked on the certification process with the JTI, and two media are certified: PressAfrik and Financial Afrik.

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Score : 55.44
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