Senegal lifts suspension of private radio station

A private radio station shut down for broadcasting an interview with a separatist was back on the air on Tuesday, but the case was referred to the state prosecutor.

Radio Sud FM resumed its normal programmes a day after police arrested journalists and other members of staff following an interview carried early on Monday with Salif Sadio, who calls for the independence of southern Casamance province. Casamance is separated from most of the rest of Senegal by Gambia.

“The suspension has been lifted and all the persons incriminated, arrested and questioned… have been freed,” the statement issued late on Monday by Senegal’s Ministry of Information said.

But calling the interview “a serious threat to public order and state security”, the statement added that the government had banned “the broadcast, rebroadcast or publication of the incriminating interview by any media outlet”.

The case has been referred to the state prosecutor, the statement said.

Senegal has an active news media and has become the chief West Africa base for international news organisations. Casamance, though, has been a contentious issue.

In October 2003, Senegal expelled a French journalist working for Radio France Internationale, accusing her of unbalanced coverage of peace talks involving separatist groups in Casamance.

Sophie Malibeau had interviewed hardline separatist Alexandre Djiba, who called for a boycott of a round of peace talks.

Separatists have been pressing for an independent Casamance since 1982. They argue that France never fully colonised their region, so when Senegal gained independence in 1960, the south should have become a separate nation.

Though battles are now relatively rare, insurgent hard-liners have kept up sporadic hit-and-run attacks. About 1 200 people have died in fighting over the last two decades. - Sapa-AP

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