Members of the public have been calling for the authorities to force the Mauritanian News Agency to settle fairly with Mamuni Ould Mukhtar who was dismissed from his job without receiving his entitlements after more than three decades of work. He claims this is an indication of the oppressive situation for journalists in the country, and wishes to make a stand on behalf of his colleagues and peers.
Mauritanian journalist, Mamuni Ould Mukhtar lost his job at the Mauritanian News Agency following a row with the director over work he had conducted in conjunction with the private Nouakchott News Agency.
The head of the state-owned Mauritanian News Agency, Yarba Ould Sghair, justified his decision to fire Mamuni who had been working at the agency for 36 years, on the grounds that he had been publishing work elsewhere and that this did not comply with their work regulations.
Mamuni was dismissed from his job without inquiry.
The management of the new agency said it proceeded to this punitive measure after Mamuni provided "competitive services" to private stakeholders.
Mamuni dismissed these claims and insisted that he had always followed the agency's regulations, blaming the issue instead on the agency management’s abuse of power.
"What I published in private institutions had to do with my personal opinion and is part of freedom of speech," he said.
Mamuni filed a lawsuit at the labour court which summoned the management of the MNA and urged them to reach a compromise with Mamuni. However, this proposal was rejected by the company’s management.
"The management is trying to find a way out through intermediaries and by seeking a deal under the table. I made up my mind to make my case a model story of success where journalists can win their full rights,” explained Mamuni.
“I did not do this for myself but to make sure that no journalist will have to go through this experience again," he added.
Vast Experience in Media Production
Mamunu started his career in media in 1975 as a journalist with Mauritanian national radio.
Despite no degree or journalistic qualifications, Mamuni accumulated a great deal of experience throughout his career. He has consistently been heralded as one of the best journalists working for national radio and the Mauritanian News Agency; both organisations which are generally regarded as rife with corruption, favouritism and a clan mentality.
‘Permanent Unelected MP’
In recent years, Mamumi became particularly popular for his work covering heated debated between the government and opposition MP’s in Parliament. In a country undergoing political shifts on a regular basis, the debates are followed widely by Mauritanians who are keen to keep abreast of developments there.
Mamuni used to appear on national TV, sitting in the back row of the lower house , and he was so closely associated in the minds of people with these debates that he has been referred to as a "permanent unelected MP" in the Parliament.
Committed to breaking news
Feeling a strong commitment to informing the Mauritanian people of the breaking news within the country, Mamuni often felt particularly disappointed if he missed an important story.
As one of the only journalists who covered stories in the early hours of the morning, he was extremely disappointed when he missed the story of the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Nouakchott, and suffered with illness as a result, according to one of his colleagues.
Official Punishment and Popular Support
Mamuni's ordeal is yet another example of the current regime’s control of Mauritanian journalists. Despite assurances from the government about the freedom of the media, the dismissal of a journalist from his job without inquiry is illegal and should not be allowed.
It sets a worrying precedent, and will deter any other journalists from making any decisions which could anger their superiors at work.
However, following his dismissal, Mamuni has received a great deal of popular support and sympathy. Several political parties, syndicates, rights groups and civil society organisations have expressed their support for his case, and have hailed it as an opportunity to make a stand on the behalf of the media and journalists.
By Mohammed Al Hafed Al Ghabed