Monday, June 24, 2024

MFWA condemns threats against journalist in Senegal

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the recent threats against journalist Sékou Jamal Pendessa, and urges the Guinean authorities to identify and punish the perpetrators.

As Secretary General of the Syndicat des professionnels de la presse de Guinee (SSPG), a media professionals’ trade union group, Pendessa has led a number of push-backs against media repression in Guinea, especially under the current military regime. His resolute posture in defence of the media has incurred him a lot of harassment from the junta and its lackeys.

In a statement issued on June 3, 2024, Pendessa’s lawyers said threats against their client have escalated since May 22, 2024 when he addressed a press conference and declared the SPPG’s rejection of the idea of establishing a self-regulatory body for the media.

On the same day, the authorities decided to revoke the licenses of certain private radio and television stations. Mr. Pendessa subsequently gave interviews in which he condemned the decision to revoke these licenses.

“Since then, Mr. Pendessa has observed suspicious individuals loitering around him and his residence without any lawful justification,” the lawyers said in their statement.

“We must emphasize that such regressive actions are unequivocally illegal. Furthermore, we wish to underscore that our client is a trade unionist, a General Secretary, and a public figure who is fully prepared to comply with all legal summons and adhere to due process,” the statement continued.

The threats against Pendessa follow a trend of attacks by the authorities aimed at silencing him. The journalist was arrested on January 19, 2024, detained overnight at a gendarmerie, and returned to custody in Conakry’s central prison on remand. His crime? He had defied the ban on public demonstrations by calling for street protests to demand end to internet disruption and the jamming of some broadcast stations by the authorities.

On February 23, while still in detention, Pendessa was pronounced guilty and sentenced to six months in prison, half of the term suspended.

The journalist was released on February 28, three days into a nationwide strike and public protests led by the country’s umbrella trade union, amidst fatal clashes with security forces. To save the face of the government and to pacify the protesters, the Conakry Court of Appeal reduced Pendessa’s custodial term to the time he had already served in detention and ordered his release.

The recent threats against Pendessa are apparently linked to his continued activism against attempts to muscle the media.

Meanwhile his lawyers have indicated their decision to file a complaint against unknown persons and demand judicial action to apprehend the perpetrators of the threats against their client.

The MFWA firmly backs the decision of the counsel for Pendessa and expresses its total solidarity with the journalist and the media fraternity in Guinea.

We urge the authorities to take steps to protect the safety and security of the harassed journalist and demand prompt action to identify and bring to book those trailing and threatening him.

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