MARCH 30, 2005
Updated: April 15, 2005
Police in the capital, Niamey, shuttered the offices of the privately run Radio Alternative. No reason was given for the closure, according to a source at the station reached by CPJ, but employees believed it was linked to the March 26 arrest of Moussa Tchangari, who directs the station's parent company, Alternative. The closure came amid attempts by authorities in Niger to suppress independent media coverage of protests against a new tax on basic foodstuffs, water, and electricity.
Tchangari is a leading member of the "Coalition Against Costly Living," a group of civil society organizations opposed to the new tax. On March 22, the coalition organized a general strike that nearly shut down Niamey, according to news reports. Tchangari was arrested after giving an interview to Radio France Internationale (RFI) on the coalition's stance, local sources said.
On March 29, Tchangari and four other jailed leaders of the coalition were charged with threatening national security. Several of the leaders had been interviewed by local radio stations, and had urged religious leaders to pray in order to save Nigeriens from poverty. A government spokesman told the UN's IRIN news service that their statements constituted a "veiled call to rebellion." Tchangari was transferred to Koutoukalé prison, outside of Niamey.
On April 6, a regional court declared the closure of Radio Alternative illegal. The police vacated the stations' premises, and Alternative began broadcasting shortly afterward. On April 7, the five coalition leaders were released from prison, including Tchangari, and the government began negotiations with the coalition on its opposition to the tax.