Three journalists jailed without charges over border dispute article

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New York, October 27, 2000 — Niger authorities have arrested three local journalists for publishing an article on an ongoing border dispute between Niger and neighboring Benin, sources in the capital, Niamey, told CPJ.

Tahirou Glos, editor of the independent Niamey weekly L’Enquêteur, and staff reporter Maiga Soumaina were arrested on October 24 on unspecified charges arising from an article by Soumaina in that day’s edition of the paper. The piece commented on the resumption last week of a decade-old dispute between Niger and Benin over Tete Island, a small landmass in the Niger River that both countries claim.

A third journalist from L’Enquêteur, Salifu Dago, was arrested on October 26 in connection with the same story. Meanwhile, L’Enquêteur failed to appear this week, reportedly for security reasons. Family members who wished to inquire about the welfare of the three detained journalists were denied entrance to the police station where they are being held.

L’Enquêteur earlier reported that Benin had deployed troops on Tete Island to evict residents with Niger citizenship, and alleged that Benin was planning to cut diplomatic relations with Niger.
Reacting to the journalists’ arrest in an interview with the BBC, Defense Minister Sabiu Dady Gao accused the paper of “insulting” the two countries and “lying” about their respective positions in the present dispute.
Both Glos and Soumaina remain in detention at the time of writing, despite constitutional guarantees that detention without charge must not exceed 48 hours.

“There is no possible justification for jailing a journalist because of his work,” said CPJ Africa program coordinator Yves Sorokobi. “Society’s right to be informed is compromised when journalists are prevented from reporting on issues of legitimate public concern. We urge Niger authorities to release Glos, Soumaina, and Dago immediately.”