Blogging in Mauritanian: reports of bloggers having a tough time

The post has been updated in 2020.

There are numerous stories of bloggers facing the wrath of religious ultras and intolerant administrative/ social/ legal systems. A number of liberal bloggers were hacked to death in Bangladesh in the last few years. We also see press reports now and then about illegal detention of many bloggers in African countries.  

This is a report on a blogger who spoke against social evils in Mauritania four years back and is still paying the price for that. Cheikh Ould Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a Mauritanian blogger imprisoned since 2014 on blasphemy charges was not released by authorities for five years. 

Mauritanian blogger jailed
In 2014, Cheikh wrote an article, 'Religion, Religiosity and Craftsman' on his blog, in which he criticized the country’s caste system. He condemned the discrimination being faced by black Mauritanians in the name of religion and spoke about certain choices made by Prophet Mohamed. 

The conservative segments of the society wanted execution of the blogger. He was tried and was sentenced to death in 2014 for apostasy. The blogger is reported to have first argued that he did not intend to insult the Prophet and then repented before an appellate court. The court, in 2017, commuted the death sentence to two year’s imprisonment that would end immediately as he had already spent more than that time in prison. 

But Cheikh was not released on the pretext that due to his act, a majority of countrymen do not want him out and his release would create disturbance in the country. International and national NGOs have been petitioning the Mauritanian President for release of the blogger. Finally, Cheikh has been released in 2019. It is reported that he has sought asylum in France.

In 2018, Mauritania adopted an even harsher blasphemy law  that invites death on such a crime. That makes liberal blogging even more vulnerable in Mauritania.

There are other bloggers who have faced interrogation, detention and trials for raising their voice against the establishment.

Political opponents of the ruling formation charge that ultras and fraudsters are being protected while dissenting voices are being silenced through legal means. International watchdog agencies have also raised red flag many times against detention of bloggers.

If you are keen to learn more on how bloggers have been suffering over the year in the hands of authorities, courts and goons all over the world, you can visit chapters on bloggers' safety and blogs as mass media in The Manual of Blogging.

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