A Senegalese television journalist has been detained on charges of contempt of court and spreading false news, his lawyer told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday.
Pape Ndiaye, a commentator for the WalFadjri news channel, had recently questioned the independence of the judiciary after opposition politician Ousmane Sonko was referred to a criminal court in January over rape accusations.
The journalist, whose lawyer said he was jailed Tuesday night pending a possible trial, had said the majority of the judges of the public prosecutor’s office had decided to dismiss the case against Sonko.
But he alleged the public prosecutor told them to fulfill the government’s desire to put him on trial.
Ndiaye’s lawyer, Moussa Sarr, confirmed the journalist’s indictment and detention to AFP on Wednesday, after it was initially announced by the Coordination of Press Associations (CAP), a trade union confederation.
He said the charges include the “provocation of a crowd, contempt of court, intimidation and reprisals against a member of the judiciary, discrediting a judicial act, dissemination of false news [and] endangering the lives of others.”
The Sonko case has been a source of tension for two years in Senegal.
The politician, who came in third in the last presidential election, was charged with rape and death threats and placed under judicial supervision in March 2021, based on a complaint by an employee at a beauty salon where he was getting a massage.
He claims the charges are part of a plot to destroy his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.
Ndiaye is the second journalist to be imprisoned in recent months in Senegal.
Pape Ale Niang, a journalist from the news website Dakar Matin and a critic of the government, was arrested in November and again in December.
He has been accused, among other things, of “disclosing information likely to harm national defense” and “disseminating false news” — also in connection with the Sonko case.
He has since been placed under judicial supervision.
Senegal was ranked 73rd out of 180 countries on the 2022 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, down 24 places from the previous year.