Mauritania: Journalist Remains in Jail for Progressive Reporting
Today’s Wall Street Journal featured a profile by Khalid Lum of Hanevy Ould Dahah, a journalist in Mauritania who was arrested last June days after his website published photos and video showing agent’s of Mauritanian President General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz corrupting the presidential election. The government officially charged the journalist and founder of the progressive Taqadoumy.com site with posting material that was “contrary to Islam and decent behavior.” Though Dahah’s sentence was completed in December, officials would not release him. On Jan. 14, the Supreme Court ruled his trial was illegal; Dahah has been kept in prison where he’ll likely be re-charged with the same crime.
Dahah is half-Arab and half-African, and was raised to become a cleric having memorized the Quran by the time he was nine years old. Lum writes that when he first met Dahah last year, Dahah explained that “the corrosive impact of his country’s dictatorship and religious extremism…stunted society. Instead of a radical cleric, he became a reformer committed to secular democracy.” After a 20-year dictatorship was dismantled in 2007, Lum writes that Dahah viewed it as an opportunity “ripe for new democratic experiments” by launching Taqadoumy.com (Arabic for “progressive”) in Arabic, French and English. Lum calls the investigative journalism on the site “unparalleled in the Arab world.”
Lum also reports that the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, has launched a case for Dahah, who they feel is a victim of “a relentless campaign of persecution.” The U.S. State Department provided Dahah a visa to the U.S. last year to study English, but has not yet commented on his arrest. Lum argues that “if the U.S. is sincere in its support for democratic reform, the administration will publicly demand the immediate release of Hanevy Ould Dahah. He — and dissidents across the Middle East — are waiting.”