Attacks on the Press 1999: Niger

Niger’s journalists won praise from international observers for maintaining objectivity in a volatile political environment. Following the April 9 assassination of strongman Ibrahim Bare Mainassara by soldiers under the command of Maj. Daouda Mallam Wanke, local independent media joined forces with nongovernmental organizations, political parties, and international bodies to urge an immediate return to democratic rule.

Cowed by international threats of economic sanctions, the junta promised to hold parliamentary and presidential elections by the end of the year. Elections were eventually held on November 24. Led by Col. Mamadou Tandja, a former interior minister who served in a previous military dictatorship, the National Movement for Social Development secured a majority in the national assembly.

All year, the military leaders attempted to stifle criticism by harassing and roughing up local journalists. Ali Sekou Maina, editor of the private weekly La Voix du Citoyen, claimed that he was beaten on the night of April 13 by four men who were either soldiers or members of a paramilitary group. Two days earlier, he had written an article accusing the authorities of trying to eliminate opposition leaders. However, CPJ was unable to confirm Maina’s allegations.

There are a number of privately owned newspapers and radio stations in Niger, but most people continue to get their news from government-run media such as the daily Le Sahel and Radiodiffusion Télévision du Niger. International organizations have sponsored several Internet-access projects, but all have failed because of an inadequate telephone infrastructure and exorbitant connection fees.