Journalist freed after 18 days detention in libel case

New York, February 21, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the release of newspaper director Ibrahim Manzo, who spent 18 days in preventive detention awaiting the outcome of a defamation case. A court in Niamey, capital of Niger, handed Manzo a suspended one-month prison sentence on Monday and ordered his release, local journalists told CPJ.

The court also fined him 50,000 CFA francs (US$91) and ordered him to pay symbolic damages of 1 CFA franc (less than 1 US cent) to a local businessman.

L’Autre Observateur reported in a December 2005 article that a carjacker had accused the businessman of selling him the weapon used in the carjacking. The prosecutor asked for a two-month prison sentence and 50,000 CFA franc (US$91) fine.

“We are relieved that Ibrahim Manzo has finally been released from prison, but he never should have been held in preventive detention in the first place,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director. “Niger authorities must reform repressive laws which criminalize defamation and allow preventive detention for those charged with it.”

Preventive detention for journalists charged with defamation, allowed under a 1999 press law, is common in Niger, CPJ research shows. Another newspaper director, Salifou Soumaila Abdoulkarim, was placed in preventive detention for almost a month in a separate defamation case in November 2005. He was later convicted and sentenced to two months in jail minus time served in preventive detention.