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Mauritania: A Journalist Behind Bars

Mauritanian journalist Obeid Ould Amegn, whose health is in bad condition [Ar], is still in the central prison of the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. Obeid Ould Amegn, a journalist and an anti-slavery human rights activist, is the vice-president of the Club of Activist Journalists. He also runs the website Initi.

Mauritanian police had arrested Obeid Ould Amegn on April 29, in the capital Nouakchott, after he gave a statement to Al Arabiya TV network regarding those arrested following a book-burning protest. During that protest, Biram, the President of the Emancipation Initiative Movement, burned Islamic jurisprudence books, which the movement accuses of consolidating slavery, and human trafficking in Mauritania.

The burning protest caused huge controversy among the popular Mauritanian communities. There were anti-burning protests calling for the execution of Biram. There were also protests calling for his release. The latter would always end up by extreme oppression. During the last pro-Biram protest,one person died after choking on tear gas, which the authorities had heavily fired at protesters.

صورة  للصحفي عبيد ولد إميجن من مدونة بوتلميت

Obeid Ould Amegn- photo source: boutilimit blog

The Club of Activist Journalists condemned the arrest of Obeid Ould Amegn:

إن نادي الصحفيين الحقوقيين:
- يحمل السلطات المسؤولية عن سلامة وصحة الصحفي المعتقل.
- يلفت الانتباه الى المهمة المنوطة بالصحفي الحقوقي الذي من واجبه مواكبة الانشطة التي تقوم بها المنظمات والنشطاء الحقوقيين ونقل الاحداث لحظة بلحظة.
- يهيب نادي الصحفيين الحقوقيين بنقابات وروابط الصحفيين الموريتانيين ومنظمات المجتمع المدني لتحمل مسؤولياتهم تجاه الزميل عبيد المعتقل على خلفية ارائه كصحفي.
- يحذر من وجود ارادة أمنية لتوريط الصحفي عبيد ولد اميجن انطلاقا من آرائه الصحفية او انتاجه الفكري.
- يدعو لتوفير رعية صحية في اسرع وقت ممكن والسماح لذويه بالإطلاع على احواله.

The Club of Activist Journalists:
- hold the authorities responsible for the safety, and the well-being of the arrested journalist.
- draws attention to the mission assigned to the activist journalist who has a duty to cover activities organized by organizations, and human rights activists, and report on events as they happen.
- calls upon Mauritanian journalists’ unions, and networks, and the civil society's organizations to take responsibility for the colleague Obeid, who was arrested for his journalistic opinions.
- warns from a police desire to implicate Obeid, based on his journalistic opinions, and intellectual output.
- calls for providing [Obeid] with health care as soon as possible, and for allowing his relatives to check on his conditions.

Mauritanian activists have also launched a campaingn to free him:

إن الحملة الدولية لإطلاق سراح الصحفي عبيد ولد إميجن:
- تدعو كل الحقوقيين والصحافيين والمثقفين المواطنين، وكذا الشرفاء في موريتانيا وجميع بلدان العالم، والمتعاطفين مع ” معتقلي الرأي ” لمساند الحملة الدولية لإطلاق الصحفي عبيد ولد إميجن.

The international campaign to free journalist Obeid Ould Amegn calls upon all activists, journalists, intellectuals, citizens, all honest people in Mauritania and around the world, and sympathisers with “prisoners of conscience” to support the international campaign to free journalist Obeid Ould Amegn

Boutilmit Today blog, stood in solidarity with him:

بوتلميت اليوم وهي تنشر هذا الخير تعلن تضامنها مع الزميل عبيد ولد إميجن إبن مدينة بوتلميت وتستنكر التصامم الذي تقوم به نقابة الصحفيين والرابطة واتحاد ا لمواقع الإلكترونية ووووو.
وتطالب بوتلميت اليوم كل الصحفيين الغيوريين علي حرية الكلمة بالتحرك والعمل علي إطلاق سراح عبيد وإعادة الاعتبار له وحقه في حرية التعبير.

As it announces this report, Boutilmit Today declares its solidarity with colleague Obeid Ould Amegn, who is from the city of Boutilmit, and denounces the passive role of the journalists’ union, the league, and the electronic websites’ union….Boutilmit calls upon all journalists who have a zeal for the free word, to seek to free Obeid, rehabilitate him, and his right to freedom of expression.

Mauritarina blogger, Sidi Ettayeb Ould El-Moujtabu wrote on his blog:

عبيد ولد اميجن..سجين الكلمة الحرة والرأي الحر والفكر الحر..
لست أنت أول صحفي ولا آخره يقبع وراء تلك القضبان المعتمة..
ما أنت بالبدع من الأحرار الذين كتب عليهم أن يدفعوا ثمن حريتهم من أرق الجفون وفراق الأحبة والأهل والرفاق..
كلا يا عبيد.. كلا أيها الرفيق…

Obeid Ould Amegn is a prisoner of the free word, free conscience, and free thought…I'm neither the first not the last journalist standing behind those dark bars..You are not better than the free who took it on their shoulders to pay the price of their freedom. The price which they paid from sleepless nights and leaving behind their loved ones, family and friends…No you slaves..No you comrade…

The Free Opinion blog also commented on his arrest, and criticised the passive position of the journalists’ union:

ما يثير الريبة في هذا الأمر هو نقابة الصحفيين التي يبدو أنها مادية أكثر منها حريصة علي حماية الصحفيين وحريتهم وضمان سلامتهم بعيدا عن الشخصنة والمواقف المسبقة.
قبل فترة وجيزة تم فصل احد الصحفيين من إحدى المؤسسات فصدرت البيانات المنددة والمتعاطفة والشروع في إطلاق النداءات الدولية لهذا الغرض، لا يمكن بأي حال من الأحوال ألا يتعاطف مع الصحفي المعزول ماموني ولد المختار وألا يندد بذلك، ولكن الا تعتبر هذه المسالة ازدواجية أو انتقائية وان شئت قل عنصرية، فهناك صحفي قرصن موقعه ولم تتكلم النقابة، اعتقل لم تتكلم كذلك، ماذا بقي بعد لتتحرك وتدلي بدلوها في هذا الموضوع.

What is even more suspicious about this matter is the journalists’ union wich seems more materialistic than keen to protect journalists, and their freedom, or guarantee their safety away from taking things personally, and prejudices. A short while ago, a journalist was fired from an institution. Condemning, and sympathising statements were released, and international calls were made. For that purpose, in any case no one would not sympathise with the fired journalist Mamouni Ould al-Mokhtar, or condemn [the lay off]. But isn't this matter duplicitous or selective? And if you wish you can even describe it as racist. There is a journalist whose website was hacked, the union did not utter a word. He was arrested, it [the union] did not utter a word as well. What else needs to happen before the union moves, and speaks out on this matter?

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