Senegal charges journalist for offence to president

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DAKAR, Oct 16 (Reuters) A Senegalese newspaper publisher has been charged with insulting the head of state and faces up to five years in prison for a story about a night out by President Abdoulaye Wade, his lawyer said today.

Moussa Gueye, who publishes ''L'Exclusif'' newspaper in the town of Rufisque some 35 km from the capital Dakar, was arrested on October 8 after his journal ran a story about a night out by octogenarian Wade and one of his close aides.

After several days in detention, Gueye was formally charged late on Monday with insulting the head of state, publishing false news, and acts aimed at undermining public security, his lawyer Cheikh Tidiane Faye told Reuters.

''Under Senegalese law if he is convicted, the sentence will be up to five years in prison,'' Faye said.

Another journalist involved in the article has gone into hiding, according to local press reports.

Senegal's journalists union and human rights orgnisations have urged legal authorities to free Gueye. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists also called for his immediate release.

Press watchdogs have complained about a string of arrests of journalists in West Africa in recent months, some of them under controversial laws to defend the president's reputation.

A court in Mali convicted five journalists and a teacher in June for insulting President Amadou Toumani Toure over a high shool essay assignment on the sexual indiscretion of an imaginary head of state.

In Niger, authorities have detained the director of a northern regional newspaper and expelled a French documentary maker this month in a crackdown on media coverage of a Tuareg-led rebellion in the desert north.

Niger, which also jailed several journalists last year and banned a newspaper and radio station for criticising the government, has said it will change its press laws to decriminalise press offences.

REUTERS GL RAI1904

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