The presidential elections in the spring of 2007 marked a historic moment in Mauritania, when a military ruler peacefully transferred power to an elected civilian for the first time in the Arab world. But the impact of the change remains to be seen; despite the news president’s promise to safeguard the freedom of the press, several newspapers and journalists have faced prosecution, triggering loud protestation from the press and civil society.
In 2006, a new press law was passed by the military regime, abolishing a rule that forced newspapers to obtain prior permission from the press censor before the papers could be sent to the newsstands. The new legislation also moved responsibility for press matters from the Ministry of the Interior to an independent body, where the newly legalized union of independent newspapers is represented. The state still monopolizes radio and television, making the written press the unique medium for free political debate.
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printed press has recently joined forces to create the first
distribution system to cover the entire country. But most independent
newspapers still rely on state-run printing facilities as they are less
expensive and more experienced.
leading Arabic-language newspaper, Akhbar Nouakchott sets a special focus on
Islamic issues in general and Islamic militancy and terrorism in particular.
The newspaper’s owner, Shaykhna Ould Nenni, was known to have close ties to the
outgoing military regime. Editor-in-chief Mohammad Mahmoud Abu Al Maali, who
was jailed for publishing an interview with a leading Islamist in 2005, is at
present under prosecution for libel in what is considered as a showdown between
the newly democratically elected president Ould Al Shaykh Abdallah and his
opponents. This daily has hardly any opinion pages. While the print edition of Akhbar
Nouakchott comes in a primitive layout, its website is quite modern.
independent newspaper. Al Aqsa’s
managing editor Abdel Fettah Ould Ebeidna was imprisoned for four days in late
May 2007, following the publication of a story about a large-scale
drug-trafficking scandal involving several prominent figures.
independent and well-respected weekly available only in the capital Nouakchott,
Al Qalam is known to be the most censored newspaper in Mauritania and
has been suspended several times for breaching the restrictive press law. Al
Qalam has decent opinion pages and well-known columnists such as Abbass
official newspaper of the government, Al Shaab provides uncritical
coverage of the activities of the President and the Prime Minister. Al Shaab
and its French-language sister paper are both published by the official news
agency Agence Mauritanienne d’Information.
French Published bi-weekly Established:
oldest and most respected newspaper with a wide distribution, L'Eveil Hebdo
opens its pages for interviews with leading opposition personalities and
pursues controversial issues, such as terrorism and drug-trafficking. L'Eveil
Hebdo has been often suspended. Most recently, the weekly was suspended for
a month because of its coverage of a drug-trafficking scandal that shook the
French-language sister of Akhbar Nouakchott,the leading Arabic-language newspaper, Nouakchott
Info covers national politics as well as issues of interest to the
French-speaking expatriate community such as international aid and security