Journalist sentenced to prison for defamation

New York, February 6, 2006—The publication director of a private weekly newspaper was sentenced today to two months in prison for allegedly defaming a local businessman, according to two local journalist organizations. Ibrahim Manzo, director of L’Autre Observateur, was arrested and placed in “preventive detention” on Thursday; his trial lasted a single day. He is being held in a prison in Niamey, the capital.

Manzo is the second journalist to serve prison time in 2006 in Niger for criminal defamation, according to CPJ records. He was also told to pay a 50,000 CFA franc fine (US$91).

“Jailing journalists for what they write is an outrageous practice,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. “We call on Niger’s authorities to release our colleague Ibrahim Manzo, and to work toward reforming Niger’s repressive criminal defamation laws.”

The case against Manzo stemmed from a December 2005 article, according to Abdoulaye Massalaki, head of the Niger journalists union. The article reported that an alleged carjacker had accused an influential businessman of selling him the weapon used in the crime.

In today’s trial, Manzo’s lawyer refused to enter a plea, stating that the process was biased and that he had not had adequate time to prepare a defense, according to Abdourahamane Ousmane, head of the Union of Journalists for Human Rights.

On January 12 another newspaper director, Salifou Soumaila Abdoulkarim, was released from prison after serving a two-month sentence for allegedly defaming the state treasurer. He had been placed in preventive detention for a month pending his trial. For more information, see CPJ’s alert of December 5, 2005.