• January 27, 2023

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A Senegalese journalist and prominent anti-government critic is “extremely strained” after a two-week hunger strike he launched in protest of his detention, his lawyer said on Monday.

Pape Ale Niang, head of the Dakar Matin online news site, was arrested on November 6 and charged with “divulging information likely to harm national defense.”

Niang, widely followed in Senegal for his regular columns on current affairs, was released on December 14 but sent back to prison a week later. He has been on a hunger strike since his latest imprisonment on December 20.

“I pray that the irreparable does not happen,” Me Moussa Sarr told journalists.

The journalist has been at Dakar’s main hospital since December 24, with doctors concerned about his condition for the past five days, according to a local press body.

The case against Niang arose after he wrote about rape charges faced by the country’s main opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko.

He is accused of describing confidential messages about security arrangements for Sonko’s interview with investigators, according to trade unions.

His detention sparked a wave of criticism from the press, civil society groups and Senegal’s opposition, many of whom called for his release.

Senegal has a strong reputation for openness and press freedom in troubled West Africa, but this status is in decline, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Its 2022 Press Freedom Index ranked Senegal 73rd out of 180 countries — a fall of 24 places compared with the 2021 assessment.

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