Senegal Culture

Senegal Culture and Mass Media

Newspapers in Senegal

According to PHARMACYLIB.COM, Senegal is a country located in Africa. The distribution of newspapers in Senegal is very small (5 newspaper excl. Per 1,000 residents, 2000). There are four daily newspapers, three of which are published in French and one in Arabic. The largest is the semi-official government agency Le Soleil (edition: approx. 45,000 copies), published in Dakar. There are also about twenty magazines. Since 1991, freedom of the press has increased.

The state-owned company Société Nationale de Radiodiffusion-Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS), founded in 1972, broadcasts radio in French, Arabic, Portuguese and six local languages. Since 1994 there is also a commercial radio station. RTS has been broadcasting TV since 1972, and in 1990 the pay-TV channel Canal Horizons Sénégal was added. There are 141 radio and 40 TV receivers per 1,000 residents (2000).


According to ALLUNITCONVERTERS, Senegal has a vibrant music and dance culture that underpins a successful music industry. Many artists have had an international impact with the music style mbalax. There is also a rich storytelling tradition and the country had an early, albeit small, film industry.

The mbalax music style blends the traditional drums of Sabar’s rhythms with jazz, rock, soul and Latin rhythms into a native Afropop. It has been developed and become known around the world not least by Youssou N’Dour, one of Africa’s most famous singers. N’Dour also runs a media empire and has stepped into politics (see Mass Media and Modern History). In 2013 he was awarded the Swedish Polar Prize.

Famous names are also Baaba Maal, Cheikh Lô and Thione Seck. Among young people, rap music has also had a major impact. There are a number of groups that rap in the language wolof on both politics and religion. Some have had a particularly significant impact and formed a youth movement with political focus in connection with the dissatisfaction with President Abdoulaye Wade in 2011 and 2012 (see Current policy).

The oral storytelling tradition is rich and the singing storytellers (griot in French, gewel on wolof) play an important role in the local community. However, there is not much literature in native languages, as most writers write in French. Some well-known authors are Aminata Sow Fall, Boubacar Boris Diop and the ex-president and poet Léopold Sédar Senghor (1906–2001). Towards the end of the colonial era, Senghor was one of the representatives of the then influential négrite movement, which claimed the value of the black culture.

Senegalese film was an early leader in free West Africa. The director and writer Ousmane Sembène (1923–2007) has been called “the father of the African film”. He was one of the initiators of the Pan-African Film Festival in Burkina Faso and made several internationally award-winning films. Sembène also wrote several socially critical novels, including God’s wooden pieces.

Other names are the cult-declared Djibril Diop Mambéty (1943–1998) and Moussa Sène Absa, who have gained international attention not only as a filmmaker but also as a painter and musician.

Mass Media

Senegal traditionally has a relatively free press with a large selection of newspapers and a lively political debate. Nowadays there are also private radio and TV channels. However, the media climate deteriorated during President Wade’s reign of 2000–2012. The situation for the country’s media workers has improved since Macky Sall took over the presidency in 2012. But promises to decriminalize criminal offenses have not been fulfilled, and threats, harassment and prosecution of journalists exist and contribute to some self-censorship.

Freedom of the press and opinion are included in the constitution. At the same time, the media is limited by laws that allow journalists to risk imprisonment and high fines for insulting the president, publishing fake news or threatening the country’s security. Several such convictions have been sentenced in recent years, although prison sentences are often conditional.

When Abdoulaye Wade was president, he ended up on a collision course with the privately owned media. Before the 2007 presidential election, Wade made a critical statement about the press, which he claimed was campaigning against him. The criticism of his decision to stand for re-election in 2012 further intensified the contradictions (see Modern history). In 2011, there were even protests from journalists employed by the state radio and television company Radiodiffusion-Télévision Sénégalaise (RTS). They were critical of the editors’ overly faithful attitude. Despite this, RTS gave little room for the increasingly loud opposition to Wade.

Under President Sall, the media climate has been relatively tolerant and many media have been able to take a government-critical stance without feeling bad. In 2013, however, the editor-in-chief of the privately owned newspaper Le Quotidien was sentenced to one month in prison and fined for publishing a critical article on a former foreign minister. A reporter in the daily newspaper was also sentenced to a shorter prison sentence. The court also decided to close Le Quotidien for three months. Other prosecution charges or charges of “spreading fake news” have also resulted in similar punishments.

There are up to 20 daily newspapers and several weekly and monthly newspapers. Some of the most important newspapers are the government agency Le Soleil and the privately owned Sud Quotidien, Le Quotidien, Wal Fadjri l’Aurore and L’Observateur. All are French-speaking.

Newspaper editions are small; The radio is the most important news communicator because many residents cannot read. The state RTS dominates, but since the 1990s there are a number of private radio stations. Broadcasts are available in both French and domestic languages. During the 2000s, private TV channels were also added. Particular attention was given to the channel launched in 2010 by singer and world star Youssou N’Dour, after two years of struggle against the authorities. His media group already runs a radio channel and the magazine L’Observateur.

Access to the internet is not restricted by the authorities. Nearly one fifth of the population had access to the network in 2014. Mobile use has increased significantly in recent years, which has resulted in a greater spread of news and increased use of social media.


Percentage of the population using the internet

46 percent (2017)

Number of mobile subscriptions per 100 residents

104 (2018)

Senegal Culture

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