Art. 208: criminalizes publicly casting discredit on a judicial decision, by acts
words or writings, in a manner as to undermine the authority or independence of a
judicial authority. It is punishable by imprisonment of one to six months, and a fine
of 5,000 to 200,000 ouguiya (approx. US$19-760), or one of these penalties.
Where committed by the press, the punishments outlined in Art. 263 apply.
Art. 263: imposes a punishment of imprisonment of one month to two years and a
fine of 5,000 to 150,000 ouguiya (approx. US$19-570) on anyone who creates or
holds, for purposes of dealing, distributing, renting or displaying; imports or causes
to be imported, displayed or transported for the same purpose; displays or projects
in public, sells, rents or sells or leases; offers, even at no cost or not in public, in
any form whatsoever, directly or indirectly; distributes or submits for distribution
by any means, any prints, writings, drawings, posters, engravings, paintings,
photographs, films, stencils, emblems or other immoral objects or images. Anyone
convicted under this section may also be prohibited, for up to six months, from
carrying out managerial functions at businesses that publish, print and distribute
journals and periodicals.
Art. 267: addresses recidivism, specifying that, where someone is convicted under
Arts. 263 to 266 and within five years commits another infraction, they are subject
to double the prison term set in Art. 263, and a fine of up to 600,000 ouguiya
(approx. US$2,280). A prohibition on exercising the functions specified in Art. 263
also applies; the relevant court may reduce this to no less than six months.
Art. 306: Any person who commits an offense against public decency or Islamic
morals, or violates holy places or assists in their violation, and if this act does not
figure in crimes subject to Ghissassi or Diya [restitution paid to the victim of a
crime or the victim’s family], is punishable by imprisonment of three months to
two years and a fine of 5,000 to 60,000 ouguiya (approx. US$19-228). This section
also prohibits apostasy, punishable by death in case there is no repentance.
Art. 348: Anyone who, by any means whatsoever, makes a false accusation
against one or more individuals, to judicial or police, or any other authority with
power to act thereon, or to superiors or employers of the individual, shall be
punished by imprisonment of six months to five years and a fine of 10,000 to
200,000 ouguiya (approx. US$38-760).
Art. 349: All other insults or outrageous expression that are not both serious and
public give rise only to less serious penalties (peines de simple police), or
sentences imposed by magistrate or police courts.
NIGER Population: 15.8 million Press Freedom Rating: Partly Free
After President Mamadou Tandja was overthrown in a
military coup, the new government was quick to reopen the
state-funded press club, closed since 2008. This paved the
way for significant reform. In June, legislation was adopted
Further cause for hope was the appointment of prominent journalist,
Abdourahamane Ousmane, to head the new National Communication Observatory,
the media oversight body created following the coup. It replaced the Higher
Communication Council formed under Tandja, and often used for aggressive
pursuit of the news media.
RWANDA Population: 10 million Press Freedom Rating: Not Free
Media freedom was further repressed in the run-up to August
2010 elections, with government officials stepping up lawsuits
and setting administrative traps against independent
newspapers. Many reporters went into exile. Just before
incumbent President Paul Kagame won a second term in a
landslide victory, the BBC quoted him: “Those who give our country a bad image
can take a rope and hang themselves.”
In July, Umurabyo editor Agnes Uwimana was charged with “incitement to
civil disobedience,” “contempt of head of state,” “spreading rumors to cause public
disorder,” and “denying the genocide.” Her reporter, Saidati Mukakibibi was
charged a week later with “criminal defamation,” “inciting public disorder,” and
“divisionism.” All charges stem from articles in 2010. Uwimana faced a possible
33-year prison sentence. The prosecution sought a 12-year sentence for
Mukakibibi. Umurabyo ceased publication.
In April, Umuvugizi was closed by the Media High Council -- Rwanda’s
regulatory body -- for six months for “inciting public disorder” and “contempt of
head of state.” Editor Jean Bosco Gasasira fled Rwanda after reported death
threats. Gasasira believed the charges were brought for an article comparing
Rwanda’s President to Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe. In September, Gasasira was
acquitted, but a higher court reversed the ruling, and Gasasira faced a 10-year term
upon return to the country.
In February, three journalists from Umuseso were convicted of “violation of
privacy” for an article alleging an illicit affair between a top government official
and the mayor of Kigali. Didas Gasana, deputy editor, Richard Kayigamba,
reporter and Charles Kabonero, the editor living in exile, appealed and were free
pending trial. A month later, a 2008 criminal defamation conviction against
Kabonero and Gasana went on appeal but was dismissed. The charges stemmed
from an article about Rwandan investor Tilbert Rujugiro, wanted for fraud in South
Africa. Both journalists received one-year suspended sentences and were fined
Relevant Laws The Press Law of 2002 was replaced by a new Media Law in 2009. The old law
outlawed defamation and insult, including against the head of state, and called for
application of maximum penalties under the Penal Code. The 2009 Media Law
also penalizes offenses such as contempt of the head of state, and still permits
prosecution of journalists under the Penal Code.
Penal Code Art. 187: Anyone who publicly insults one of the individuals specified in the
preceding article* shall be punished by prison for three months to three years and a
maximum fine of 5,000 francs (approx. US$9), or one of these penalties.
Art. 188: Anyone who removes, destroys, damages, defaces or insults a hoisted or
publicly displayed flag or insignia of a foreign state, shall be punished by
imprisonment of three months to two years and a maximum fine of 2,000 francs
(under US$5), or one of these penalties.
Art. 234: Insulting by words, gestures, threats, writings or drawings, a member of
the assembly with legislative powers, in the exercise of his mandate or in
connection with the exercise thereof, a minister or a judicial or administrative
magistrate, an agent of authority or the police, or any other person charged by a
ministry with a public service, in the exercise of their functions or in connection
therewith, is punishable by prison for one month to one year and a fine of 200 to
5,000 francs (under US$1-9), or one of these penalties. If the insult is in a
legislative assembly, or a hearing before a court, the penalties are doubled. Insult
against the head of state is punishable by prison for two to five years and a fine of
2,000 to 10,000 francs (under US$5-18), or one of these penalties.
Art. 241: Publicly and maliciously removing, destroying, damaging, replacing or
insulting the flag or the official insignia of the Republic shall be punished by
imprisonment of two months to five years and a fine of 5,000 to 20,000 francs
(approx. US$9-36), or one of these penalties.
Art. 391: Maliciously and publicly imputing a specific fact to a person, which is of
a nature to affect the honor of, or esteem of, the person, or exposes the person to
public scorn, is punishable by imprisonment of eight days to one year and a fine of
1,000 to 10,000 francs (approx. US$2-18), or one of these penalties.
Art. 392: Publicly insulting a person is punishable by imprisonment of eight
days to two months and a fine not exceeding 5,000 francs (approx. US$9), or one
of these penalties.
Art. 393: Whoever expresses, by public defamation or insult, aversion or hatred
against a group of people who belong, by their origin, to a particular race, religion,
or commits an act of a nature to provoke such aversion or hatred, shall be punished
by imprisonment of one month to one year and a fine not exceeding 5,000 francs
(approx. US$9), or one of these penalties. [The article bans other offenses over
ethnicity, race, religion or nationality.]
Art. 394: A slanderous accusation, by any means whatsoever, is punishable by
imprisonment of six months to three years and a fine of 1,000 to 20,000 francs
(approx. US$2-36), or one of these penalties, if made to:
1. a judicial or administrative authority, or public officers with the authority to act
2. supervisors or employers of the denounced person.
Art. 395: Defamation or insult of a person in circumstances not addressed in the
preceding articles is punishable by imprisonment of a maximum of eight days and
a maximum fine of 1,000 francs (approx. US$2), or one of these penalties.
*Art. 186refers to foreign heads of state, members of foreign governments, representatives, officers or officials of another state or intergovernmental organizations, or a family member of any of these while in Rwanda.
SENEGAL Population: 12.8 million Press Freedom Rating: Partly Free
A leading journalist and two fellow reporters were
convicted of libel and fined $30,000. They were also
given one-month suspended sentences. Abdou Latif
Coulibaly, editor of the weekly La Gazette, and
reporters Aliou Niane and Alioune Badara Coulibaly,
alleged in a 2007 article that a Sudan cell phone
company, Sudatel, paid officials $40 million in
kickbacks for a license. The case was highly
publicized. Opposition parties and non-government organizations staged a
“parallel trial” on Coulibaly’s case. Meanwhile, defamation charges against
Coulibaly by the National Lottery were dismissed in 2008, but in July 2010,
the Lottery sued him again, and he was convicted of receiving stolen
documents. The plaintiff sought $1 million damages.
The editor of Express News, Abdourahmane Diallo, was convicted in
absentia for defaming the President’s chief of staff. Diallo was sentenced to
six months in prison and 18 months suspended. His paper was fined $30,000.
The case was over an article quoting negative comments on the chief of staff
by ruling party members.
Relevant Laws Penal Code Art. 254: Offense to the President of the Republic by one of the means listed
in Art. 248 [public communications, including writings and printed materials]
is punishable by imprisonment of six months to two years and/or a fine of
100,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs (approx. US$218-3,260).
Art. 255: Publication, distribution, disclosure or reprinting by any means
whatever of false news, fabricated articles, falsified or falsely attributed to
third parties, is punishable by imprisonment for one to three years and a fine
of 100,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs (approx. US$218-3,260) when the
publication, distribution, disclosure or reprinting, whether or not done in bad
faith. . . casts discredit on public institutions or their functioning. The same
penalties will be incurred when the publication, distribution, disclosure or
reprinting would have been likely to produce the same consequences.
Art. 258: Every allegation or imputation of a fact that undermines the dignity
or esteem of the individual or body against whom the fact is imputed
constitutes defamation. When it is done by one of the means cited in Art. 248,
it is punishable even if it is expressed as a question or if it is aimed at a
person or a body that is not explicitly named but whose identification is
possible from the terms of the speech, cries, threats, writings or printed
materials, placards or posters. Every gravely offensive statement, every term
of scorn, whether it is related to the origin of a person or not, every invective
that does not contain an imputation of a fact constitutes an insult.
Art. 259: Defamation committed by one of the means listed in Art. 248
against the courts and tribunals, the army and the public administrative units
is punishable by four months to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of
200,000 to 1.5 million CFA francs (approx. US$436-3,260).
Art. 260: Defamation by the same means and because of their functions or
positions against one or more members of the government, one or more
deputies of the National Assembly, a civil servant, a guardian or agent of
public authority, a citizen permanently or temporarily assigned a public
service or commission, a juror or witness because of his testimony is
punishable by the same punishment. Defamation against the same persons
concerning their private life is covered by the following article.
Art. 261: Defamation committed against private individuals by one of the
means listed in Art. 248 is punishable by three months to two years
imprisonment and/or a fine of 100,000 to 1 million CFA francs (approx.
US$218-$2,180). Defamation committed by the same means against a group
of individuals not designated in the preceding article, but who by their origin
belong to a race or an established religion, is punishable by two months to
two years imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 to 500,000 CFA francs (approx.
US$109-$1,090), where its purpose is to incite hatred among citizens or
Art. 262: Insult committed by the same means against bodies or individuals
indicated in Arts. 259 and 260 is punishable by one to three months
imprisonment and/or a fine of 20,000 to 100,000 CFA francs (approx.
US$44-$218). Insult committed in the same manner against private
individuals, when it was not preceded by provocation, is punishable by
imprisonment for a maximum of two months and/or a fine of 20,000 to
100,000 CFA francs (approx. US$44-$218). If the insult has been committed
against a group of individuals who belong by their origin to a race or to an
established religion with the goal of inciting hatred among citizens or
inhabitants, the maximum penalty will be imprisonment for six months and a
fine of 500,000 CFA francs (approx. US$1,090).
Art. 263: Arts. 260, 261 and 262 will be applicable to defamations and
insults directed against the memory of the dead only in those cases where the
authors of these defamations or insults intended to attack the honor or esteem
of the living heirs, spouses or sole legatees. Whether or not the authors of the
defamations or insults intended to attack the honor or esteem of living heirs,
spouses or sole legatees, the latter will be entitled to use, in either case, the
right of response.
Art. 265: Insult committed publicly against foreign Heads of State, heads of
foreign government and the ministers of foreign governments is punishable
by six months to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of 100,000 to 1.5
million CFA francs (approx. US$218-3,260).
Art. 266: Grave offense committed publicly, while they are fulfilling their
functions, against ambassadors and plenipotentiary ministers, envoys,
charges d’affaires or other diplomatic representatives accredited by the
Government of the Republic is punishable by three months to two years
imprisonment and/or a fine of 100,000 to 1 million CFA francs (approx.
SIERRA LEONE Population: 5.7 million Press Freedom Status: Partly Free
There were positive strides toward press freedom. A
freedom of information act was well-received by
Parliament, and was referred to a committee for
review. But defamation and seditious libel were still
criminal offenses, despite significant lobbying by
media organizations to amend the law.
Relevant Laws The Public Order Act of 1965 Sect. 26 (False Defamatory Libel): Any person who maliciously publishes any
defamatory matter knowing the same to be false shall be guilty of an offense called
libel and liable on conviction to imprisonment for any term not exceeding three
years or to a fine not exceeding 1,000 leones* or both.
Sect. 27 (Defamatory Libel): Any person who maliciously publishes any
defamatory matter shall be guilty of an offense called libel and liable on conviction
to a fine not exceeding 700 leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding
two years or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Sect. 28 (Plea of Truth): 1. On the trial of an offense of libel against Sects. 26 or
27, the accusedhaving pleaded such plea as hereinafter mentioned, the truth of the
matterscharged may be inquired into, but shall not amount to a defense, unless it
wasfor the public benefit that the said matters charged should be published; and to
entitle the accused to give evidence of the truth of such matters charged as a
defense to such charge it shall be necessary for the accused in pleading to the said
charge, to allege in writing the truth of the said matters charged in themanner now
required in pleading a fair comment and justification to an actionfor a defamation
and further to allege in writing that it was for the public benefit that the said
matters charged should be published and the particular fact or facts by reason
whereof it was for the public benefit that the said matters charged should be
published to which plea the prosecutor shall be at liberty to reply generally,
denying the whole thereof.
2. Where the alleged libel contains several charges, and the accused fails in proof
of the truth of any one of the matters alleged in it, or where the alleged libel is
general and the accused fails to prove so much of the plea under this section as
would justify the libel, the Court shall find the accused guilty, and it shall be
competent for the Court, in pronouncing sentence, to consider whether the guilty of
the accused is aggravated or mitigated by the said plea, and by the evidence given
to prove or disprove the same.
3. The matter charged in the alleged libel complained of by such charge shall be
presumed to be false, and the truth thereof shall in no case be inquired into in the
absence of such plea as mentioned in Subsection 1.
4. In addition to such plea it shall be competent to the defendant to plead a plea of
5. Subject to the provisions of this section, nothing in this Part contained shall
take away or prejudice any defense under the plea of not guilty which is now
competent to the defendant to make under such plea to any charge brought under
Sects. 26 or 27.
Sect. 31 (Protection of Innocent Sellers): The sale by any person of any book,
pamphlet, or other printed or written matter or, of any number or part of any
periodical is not a publication thereof for the purposes of this Part, unless such
person knows that such book pamphlet or written matter, or number or part,
contains defamatory matter; or, in the case of any part or number of any periodical
that such periodical habitually contains defamatory matter.
Sect. 32 (Publication of False News): 1. Any person who publishes any false
statement, rumor or report which is likely to cause fear or alarm, to the public or to
disturb the public peace shall be guilty of an offense and liable on conviction to a
fine not exceeding 300 leones or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12
months, or to both such fine and imprisonment. 2. Any person who publishes any false statement, rumor or report which is
calculated to bring into disrepute any person who holds an office under the
Constitution, in the discharge of his duties shall be guilty of an offense and
liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 500 leones or to imprisonment not
exceeding two years or both.
3. Any person who publishes any false statement, rumor or report which is likely to
injure the credit or reputation of Sierra Leone or the Government shall be guilty of
an offense and liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 300 leones or to
imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.
4. This section shall not apply to any defamatory matter exempted under the
provisions of Sect. 30.
5. It is no defense to a charge under this section that the person charged did not
know or did not have reason to believe that the statement, rumor or report was
false, unless he proves that before he communicated such statement, rumor or
report, he took reasonable measures to verify the accuracy of this statement, rumor,
1. Any person who:
a) does or attempts to do, or makes any preparation to do, or conspires with any
person to do, any act with a seditious intention; or
b) utters any seditious words; or
c) prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious
d) imports any seditious publication, unless he has no reason to believe that it is
seditious, shall be guilty of an offense and liable for a first offense to imprisonment
for a term not exceeding three years, or to a fine not exceeding 1,000 leones or to
both such imprisonment and fine, and for a subsequent offense shall be imprisoned
for a term not exceeding seven years, and every such seditious publication shall be
forfeited to the Government.
* Monetary penalties under these sections all amount to less than US$1, which is inconsistent with the fines levied on journalists in recent years. However, the legislation does not appear to have been formally amended.