Freedom of Expression on Trial in Senegal as Rapper Nit Doff Set for Court Appearance

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 By Team Gom Sa Bopa Media Team

One of Senegal’s most accomplished and outspoken Rapper who doubles up as a social justice advocate, Mr Mor Tallah Gueye popularly known by his stage name, “Nitt Doff” has been jailed in Dakar since mid-January 2023 for statements made on a Facebook Live video. Nit Doff’s trial is expected to continue tomorrow Tuesday 28th March 2023 in a country currently facing civil and political unrest involving opposition Ousman Sonko.

As a civil society organisation focused on harnessing arts and culture our media team conducted this interview with one of Nit Doff’s colleagues to better understand the circumstances surrounding his arrest and continued detention. We also feature an update on the efforts of social justice movements in Senegal advocating for Nit Doff’s release.

Ms Mama Faye is a colleague of Nit Doff who has been working on his team for some years. She describes the outspoken rapper as “an artist (rapper) and an activist because he talks about many things that are important to the Senegalese people. Anytime injustice happens that he doesn’t agree with he puts his views in a song, posts on social media and does his livestream commentaries to connect directly with the people”.

“This is something he has been doing for a long time now, even in the past government and that is what he is still doing”.

Highlighting some of the challenges that follow his uncompromising stance Ms Faye says “Nit Doff is not afraid to lose opportunities because of his stance against injustice in Senegal. As for him, he says it as he sees it. His advocacy led to his annual “Show of the Year” which he has been doing for the past 12 years being cancelled. When his show was cancelled in 2022 it really frustrated him as an artist. He feels like all these actions are a form of injustice against him and an attempt to silence him”.

Asked to provide some more details on why Nit Doff was arrested and if he has been charged, Ms Faye recalls that “he did a Facebook live as usual and later published another video apologizing for anything offensive which he may have said”. Soon “after that, on the 18th of January 2023, he was arrested in his house because of the first live video. He was then taken to the Central Police in Dakar where he was kept for a while. He was taken to court twice and eventually transferred to the main Prison where he currently remains”.

On the activities of Social Justice movements in Senegal Ms Faye revealed that “his close friends and colleagues in the hip hop industry, activists and other political personalities are all supporting him. We have done press conferences, we have demonstrated, we have done sittings and some people have even been arrested and we still report all this in our press conferences”.

“We have also demonstrated in Dakar, and the people of Louga his hometown are also planning on doing their own demonstration. The hip-hop community in Senegal have been visiting him too and every time we go there, he remains in high spirits,” said the advocate.

Our reporter concluded by asking if she believed his arrest was in line with the law and to comment on the public reaction to his arrest. In response, Ms Faye believes that “nobody is happy about his arrest because Nit Doff is someone who has empathy for people, someone who has a good relationship with people. He is an advocate against injustice, even if it’s done to someone who he doesn’t know he is always ready to advocate against injustice. Right now, we should be working on projects and his tours but he has been there since January”.

Team Gom Sa Bopa takes this opportunity to remind the government of Senegal of the “Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights” approved by the African Commission at the 32nd session on 17th to 23rd October 2022 in Banjul The Gambia.

Section II of the Declaration focuses on “Interference with Freedom of Expression” and notes that “no one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his or her freedom of expression” and “any restrictions on freedom of expression shall be provided by law, serve a legitimate interest and be necessary and in a democratic society”.

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