New York, February 26, 2003--The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release from prison of Abdoulaye Tiémogo, an editor at the weekly Le Canard Déchaîné, which is based in Niger’s capital, Niamey.
Tiémogo, who was freed on Tuesday, February 18, after completing his eight-month prison sentence, was arrested on June 18, 2002, for allegedly defaming Prime Minister Hama Amadou in a series of unflattering opinion pieces.
Tiémogo accused the prime minister of attempting to bribe Mahamane Ousmane, the head of Niger’s Parliament, in a bid to retain his position. According to Tiémogo’s stories, Amadou offered 6 million CFA francs (US$9,000), which Ousmane reportedly refused.
Tiémogo appeared in court on June 19 and was ordered held without bail, said sources in Niamey. On June 28, the journalist was convicted of libel and sentenced to eight months in prison. He was also ordered to pay a 50,000 CFA franc (US$75) fine. In addition, Tiémogo was ordered to pay Amadou 1 million CFA francs (US$1,500) in damages.
According to CPJ sources, after his conviction, Tiémogo sent a letter of apology to the judge conceding that the articles’ allegations were unfounded. Although Tiémogo appealed the conviction, on November 11, the Niamey Appeals Court upheld his sentence.
“While we welcome our colleague’s release, journalists should never be jailed for their work,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “CPJ believes that civil courts provide adequate redress in libel and defamation cases, and we urge Niger’s government to work toward eliminating criminal defamation statues from the books.”