Senegalese authorities must unconditionally release journalist Pape Alé Niang, who began a hunger strike on July 29, and cease all legal proceedings against him related to his work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday.

On Tuesday, August 1, Niang, editor of the privately owned news site Dakarmatin, was charged by the examining magistrate in Dakar, the capital, with calling for insurrection, and acts or maneuvers likely to compromise public security, according to Moussa Sarr, the journalist’s lawyer, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and newsreports.

Niang has been on hunger strike since he was arrested at his home on Saturday, July 29, and is being held in a special pavilion for sick prisoners at the Aristide Le Dantec hospital due to his fragile health.

“Senegalese authorities must end their sustained legal harassment of journalist Pape Alé Niang and ensure that he is released unconditionally and that all charges against him for his work are dropped,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator in Durban, South Africa. 

“Senegal’s recent spiral of arrests and harassment against the media, as well as disruptions to internet access, are deeply concerning, especially as the country heads toward elections next year.”

Gendarmerie officers arrested Niang for allegedly calling for insurrection in a broadcast on his outlet’s YouTube channel on July 28, according to Sarr and newsreports. In the video, Niang discussed the latest arrest, earlier that day, of opposition politician Ousmane Sonko, who is popular with young voters ahead of Senegal’s elections, scheduled for February 25, 2024.  

Insurrection—a charge also laid against Sonko—is punishable by 10 to 20 years in prison, according to Article 85 of Senegal’s penal code. Maneuvers and acts likely to compromise public safety or cause serious political unrest are punishable by three to five years imprisonment.

Sonko’s arrest and the dissolution of his party sparked fresh protests on Monday, when two people were killed. Sonko’s conviction in June on separate charges of corrupting the youth led to clashes in which at least 23 people died. 

The government shut down the internet on Monday in response to “the dissemination of hateful and subversive messages on social networks,” according to a statementby Communications Minister Moussa Bocar Thiam, as well as internet traffic analysis by the online security company CloudFlare, and news reports.

In a statement shared in media reports, Thiam also suspended TikTok on Wednesday “until further notice,” saying the social media app was “favoured by malicious people for spreading hateful and subversive messages threatening the stability of the country.”

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