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The August 2005 military coup, for once with an army takeover, radically improved media freedom. Censorship and bureaucratic obstacles to newspaper publication ended and the relay of Radio France Internationale was again permitted. Since then, the country has successfully held a constitutional referendum, honest local and parliamentary elections and in 2007 a clean presidential poll that the media reported on in a balanced way.
Media freedom became a reality but much work remains to be done and the situation is still very fragile, as shown by the June 2009 imprisonment of Hanevy Ould Dehah, editor of the website Taqadoumy for supposedly “undermining good morals.” He was arbitrarily kept in prison after serving his six-month sentence, then retried and convicted again before being pardoned by the president after being held for eight months in all. The case showed the urgency of incorporating reference to the Internet in the press law to fill the legal gap that strikes at new media.
Since the fall of the dictatorship of Maaouiya Ould Taya in 2005, the media’s problems have become both fewer and more complicated. Under the old regime, issues of newspapers were regularly seized and journalists thrown in prison under article 11 of the 1991 press law as soon as they mentioned taboo subjects such as slavery in Mauritania. With the new democratic laws, newspapers have flourished and now freely cover sensitive topics. The press remains divided and sensationalist newspapers (called "peshmergas") now dominate the media.
Apart from the legal changes needed to take account of the Internet, the government needs to tidy up the media environment, open up broadcasting and help the press survive the tough economic times.
Updated : March 2010
Mauritania - 3 February 2010
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