Journalist remains in preventive detention in Niger on defamation charge

Editor’s note: On February 6, CPJ erroneously reported that journalist Ibrahim Manzo had been sentenced to two months in prison in Niger. No verdict has been given yet in the case against Manzo, and he remains in preventive detention in the capital, Niamey.

New York, February 14, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned the continued detention of the managing editor of a private weekly newspaper in Niger on a defamation charge. Ibrahim Manzo, director of L’Autre Observateur, was placed in “preventive detention” on February 2 in the capital, Niamey, local journalists told CPJ. He faces a criminal charge of defaming a local businessman. The prosecutor has asked for a two-month prison sentence and 50,000 CFA franc fine (US$91).

Manzo’s trial, on February 6, lasted one day. While a verdict was expected on Monday, the judge said it would be given on February 20, according to Abdoulaye Massalaki, head of the Niger journalists’ union, and Abdourahamane Ousmane, head of the Union of Journalists for Human Rights.

“Placing journalists in preventive detention is ridiculous,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Our colleague Ibrahim Manzo should be released immediately.”

The defamation case against Manzo stems from a December 2005 article, according to Massalaki. The article reported that an alleged carjacker had accused an influential businessman of selling him the weapon he used in the crime.

Manzo’s lawyer has refused to enter a plea, stating that the process was biased and that he did not have enough time to prepare a defense, Massalaki and Ousmane told CPJ.

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.