Senegal: journalism and political activism, a divisive trend

For some it is possible to combine journalism and politics, for others it is not. However, the Charter regulating the profession and the principle of impartiality are very clear in this regard.

Ouestafnews – Can combining journalism and political activism guarantee the respect for ethics and integrity essential to the practice of the profession? More and more journalists are succumbing to the sirens of politics in Senegal. It’s a phenomenon that is divided even among knowledge professionals.

Journalists dealing with politics. This is the phenomenon that is fashionable in Senegal. During the local elections in January 2022, as in the next legislative elections in July 2022, more and more media people are taking on the role of political activists without getting rid of the role of journalists. This trend sparked a heated debate in the public and the press.

The debate around the question had such repercussions that it prompted the Council to convene a panel of professionals on 25 April 2022 to observe the code of ethics and professional conduct (Cored). Questioning your independence and credibility? Is there no clear conflict of interest?

Cored’s initiative began with the case of Ahmet Aydın, host of a (private) political program on Sen TV and presenter of local language press reviews. Second, it built its success and popularity on the theatrical and outrageous “press review” presented in a style and standards that defy all journalistic conventions: measure, balance, justice, independence, impartiality, sanctity of facts, etc. Everyone watched and left. In an illiterate-dominated country (+54% according to the latest official figures), the sauce quickly took hold and the masses made the host the star.

Mr. Aïdara continued her work as she entered politics on the strength of her reputation. Today, he was elected mayor of the city of Guédiawaye (Dakar, one of the capital’s five districts) following the January 2022 municipal elections, in which President Macky Hall defeated his brother Aliou Sall.

Even though the new mayor was elected and understood the power of the media, he did not want to give up his “press criticism”. The National Audiovisual Regulatory Council (CNRA) will then send an official notice to his employer (D-Media group, owner of Sen TV) to call him to cease his services. Unsuccessful. A showdown then ensued, and the CNRA suspended the SenTv signal for 72 hours to force the press group to “follow” the law. On rare occasions, Cored will stand behind the CNRA’s decision on the basis of Article 15 of the Senegalese Statute of Journalists, which stipulates that the journalist “must avoid situations of conflict of interest or ‘appearance'”. conflict of interest’.

Cored, who has a “court of court” for like-minded journalists and media professionals, asks the CNRA to run its course by banning political journalists from being appointed to the management of public service media.

The three main “public” media (the daily Le Soleil, the Senegal Press Agency and the Senegalese Radio-Television) were almost always controlled by supporters or active militants of the ruling parties through the presidency of the republic. .

ethical issue

The turn of journalists into political activists is nothing new in Senegal, although the controversy has taken on a larger dimension this time around. Former journalist and minister Abdou Latif Coulibaly, the government’s secretary-general, entered politics by announcing his 2012 presidential candidacy. He had joined the coalition that brought Macky Sall to power. He is now a militant of the presidential party.

Mr. Coulibaly, a panelist at the Cored roundtable, “gave up” the journalism profession in order to devote himself entirely to his political commitment, admitting for himself the impossibility of combining political commitment and journalism.

“It all depends on everyone’s personal morals and what they do with their job,” he says. Then he adds: “When you’re in a newsroom, you’re a journalist. Journalism is done here,” he said.

Hamadou Tidiane Sy, Director of the School of Journalism, Internet and Communication Professions (E-jicom), said:*, plus a speaker on the Core panel gives a clearer idea. Whether it is about personal ethics or not, the journalist should “avoid situations of conflict of interest”. Therefore, it is not possible for him to have the double hat of politician and journalist. According to him, the main question that arises is the problem of the “credibility” of the journalist when dealing with politics.

Cored’s chairman, Mamadou Thior, insisted that the CNRA should “scrutinize the situation more closely” of leaders of the public service media who are politically involved in the ruling coalition. »

Other actors also find this journalist-politician dual stance unacceptable. Elimane Kane, president of the think tank Legs Africa, interviewed by Ouestaf News, thinks that “it is more ethical to no longer act as an information professional when someone is dealing with politics.”

As for Ms. Eugénie Rokhaya Aw, former director of the Center for Information Science and Technology Studies (Cesti), who was the speaker on the panel, she has a different view. She remembers her own experience in the national newspaper, Sun, from where he was formally dismissed “contrary to the body’s editorial line” for his political affiliation. He remembers continuing his political action that had imprisoned him during the one-party era in Senegal, without interrupting his career as a journalist.

Ass Mademba Ndiaye, former Secretary General of the Senegal Information and Communications Professionals Syndic (Synpics) and moderator of the discussion, said he was “scandalized by the CNRA’s decision regarding the Ahmet Aïdara case”. first of all, he thinks that this is a matter of freedom and that a journalist can freely hold political opinions. However, he states that a journalist dealing with politics should leave the newsroom for honesty and impartiality.

KAN-FD/md/hts

*For the sake of transparency, the editorial staff of Ouestaf News point out that Hamadou Tidiane Sy, who participated in the Cored panel and is quoted in this article, is also the founder of Ouestaf News.

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