September 4, 2002
His Excellency Hama Amadou
Republic of Niger
Via Facsimile: 227-73-33-71
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the climate for independent journalism in Niger, following the recent arrests of two journalists and a presidential decree restricting the media.
On August 23, police arrested Moussa Kaka, director of the private radio station Saraounia, in the capital, Niamey. Kaka was detained at National Police Headquarters for about 10 hours and interrogated about his reports on the early-August mutiny of soldiers in the southeastern part of the country. Authorities were angered by Kaka’s coverage of the mutiny, which they said could have endangered government forces.
On August 26, police arrested Boulama Ligari, reporter for the independent Radio Anfani, in Diffa, the town that was the center of the uprising, and transferred him to the civilian prison on August 27. According to Radio Anfani, Ligari had covered the mutiny extensively from Diffa. Ligari was detained for three days, and was accused of broadcasting false information. He was released on August 29.
During the mutiny, President Mamadou Tanja issued a decree banning the “propagation of information or allegations likely to be detrimental to the implementation of national defense operations.” Media outlets were threatened with suspension or closure if they violated the ban. The decree also stipulated that individuals who disseminated false information would face punishment. The arrests came after the decree was issued.
Because both reporters were arrested nearly two weeks after loyalist forces had defeated the uprising, and because both were held without charge, local journalists believe their detentions were designed to harass and intimidate them and did not arise from concern about the security of national defense. It appears instead that authorities are using the jail cell as punishment for journalists who are covering events of legitimate public concern.
While Kaka and Ligari have been released, we remind Your Excellency that Abdoulaye Tiémogo, publisher and editor-in-chief of the satirical weekly Le Canard Dechainé, remains in jail. Tiémogo, who has been jailed since June 18, was convicted of libel on June 28, and sentenced without parole to eight months in prison and ordered to pay hefty fines. His conviction stemmed from a complaint filed by Your Excellency.
Journalists have the right to cover a mutiny, and we fear that these recent arrests indicate that the presidential decree may be used as a pretext in the future to silence journalists who are merely doing their jobs. As a nonpartisan organization of journalists committed to the defense of our colleagues worldwide, we urge you to do everything within your power to see that officials stop harassing journalists.
We also call on you to drop the charges against Abdoulaye Tiémogo, and to work toward decriminalizing press offenses in Niger. In this way, you will be respecting the right of journalists to report the news freely, as guaranteed under Niger’s constitution.
Thank you for your attention in the matter. We await your reply.