/ 29 July 2008

Senegal ruling party calls for anti-media campaign

Senegal’s ruling party wants to crack down on media critical of the government by blocking advertising revenues, checking they pay their taxes and urging supporters to cancel subscriptions to newspapers.

”We will ask the ministers to block advertising for newspapers that spend their time attacking us,” Farba Senghor, propaganda chief for the ruling Democratic Party (PDS) and also Minister for Air Transport, told state television on the weekend.

The comments come amid deteriorating relations between the media and the state.

The most recent incident was the alleged beating of a radio reporter by police in June, while critics accuse President Abdoulaye Wade of undermining Senegal’s democratic credentials by adopting an increasingly autocratic style and muzzling the media with arrests.

”If someone does not hesitate to fight against you, then you cannot fold your arms and let them crush you,” he added.

Senghor suggested sending tax collectors to check the books of media houses as a way of squeezing them financially. But the party’s supporters could also play their role, he said.

”We call on PDS supporters to not buy those papers. If we are not careful we will be wiped out by those media.”

A Senegalese radio station has said it will sue the police over the June incident, which took place when journalists were covering a football match. The government, however, said it was started by journalists attacking the police.

Among the few African countries to have never seen a coup, and having adopted multiparty politics in the 1970s, Senegal has long enjoyed its reputation for stability and democracy.

But diplomats and local human rights organisations are concerned about arrests of journalists, growing powers of the octogenarian Wade’s presidency and the failure to address high unemployment. — Reuters