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Niger Releases Journalists But Media Monitors Remain Concerned

On January 31, Niger released two journalists arrested three days earlier for participating in a television talk show. They were to be prosecuted for “defamatory statements” and “media offences.” A civil society activist, arrested for the same reason, too was released.
 Zakari Amadou, host of the talk show on the privately-owned Canal 3TV and Ousmane Dan Badji, editor of L’Union were released, the first unconditionally, while Badji was told to “remain available to judicial authorities” because he had declined to divulge the name of a source, said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF). Nayousa Djimraou secretary general of the Peoples’ Movement for Responsible Citizenship (PMRC), the civil society activist, was the third.

“While welcoming the release of two journalists, who were unjustly detained, we still deplore the fact that the authorities violated article 67 of the law on media freedom, which prohibits the preventive detention of journalists,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of RSF’s Africa desk.
The detention and release of Amadou and Badji is contributing to fears of heightened media repression after two other journalists too were arrested and released days before. Soumana Idrissa Maiga, editor of the independent daily, l’Enqueteur was arrested on January 23 accused of threatening national security through his newspaper column on January 17, “in which a writer speculated that the ruling party’s days in power were numbered, according to local news reports,” said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
On January 25 Abdoulaye Mamane, presenter of a Hausa-language talk show on Radio Television Bonferey was detained for a programme on January 17 where his guest had criticised Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou for corruption.
Maiga and Mamane were released on January 27.
“Niger’s 2010 press law bans pretrial detentions of journalists for offenses related to their work, according to CPJ research. In November 2011, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou became the first African head of state to endorse the Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for the repeal of criminal defamation and insult laws throughout Africa,” said CPJ.
Asked in an interview by RSF as to why Niamey had recently begun taking a tough line against journalists (Niger is 43 out of 179 countries in RSF World Media Freedom Index in 2012), Boubacar Diallo, president of the Niamey Press Club attributed it to: “The government has its back to the wall because of various crises and so it is turning on journalists who express views and organize debates it doesn’t like. Also, some journalists don’t know how to consolidate our democratic gains, and that upsets government leaders. This sudden change of behaviour is a problem because the penal code is being used with these journalists, not the press law.”