By Mohamed al-Bakay
NOUAKCHOTT (AA) - Mauritania has blasted recent remarks by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in which the U.S.-based watchdog accused Mauritanian authorities of “cracking down” on activists and rights groups.
Addressing reporters on Thursday evening, Culture Minister Mohamed Lemine Ould Cheikh insisted that Mauritania’s media and civil-society sectors enjoyed “total freedom”.
“But this freedom should not be misused by certain organizations or entities, which should carry out their work professionally and objectively,” Ould Cheikh said.
“HRW’s work in Mauritania raises questions about its motivations, professionalism and [sources of] funding,” he added.
Earlier this week, HRW accused Mauritania of “cracking down” on rights activists, especially those who dared to address “sensitive social issues… such as racial and ethnic discrimination and slavery”.
In a written statement distributed on the sidelines of a Monday press conference in capital Nouakchott, HRW said rights groups in Mauritania face “extreme pressure” when trying to organize meetings, obtain permits for peaceful protests, or funding from foreign donors.
Mauritania, where slavery was not officially outlawed until 1982 (and where the practice is still said to exist in certain parts of the country), remains the target of frequent criticism by local and foreign rights groups.