CPJ condemns jailing of a third journalist

New York, September 1, 2006—A reporter for the private newspaper l’Enquêteur has been jailed since August 28, making him the third journalist imprisoned in Niger in recent weeks, according to local sources. Salif Dago was tried Thursday on charges of publishing false information and sent back to jail, the newspaper’s director Idrissa Soumana Maïga told CPJ. A verdict is expected September 15.

The charges are linked to a story by Dago in the August 14 edition of l’Enquêteur titled “black mass in Niamey cemetery,” which recounted an alleged macabre ritual involving the killing of a baby by an unidentified man.

Dago’s imprisonment comes as two journalists from the private weekly Le Républicain, Maman Abou and Oumarou Keita, have been in jail since August 4 on charges of defaming the government and spreading false information. A verdict in their trial has been postponed to September 11, according to local journalists. For more information about their case, see CPJ’s August 14 alert.

Abdourahmane Ousmane, president of the local group Journalists for Human Rights, said he believes the government is seeking to punish the private press because of its role in exposing corruption and mismanagement in the public sector.

“The government should release Maman Abou, Oumarou Keita and Salif Dago immediately, and repeal the outdated criminal laws that are being used to jail and harass journalists,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Two other journalists, Zacharie Alzoumana of Opinions and Ibrahim Manzo of L’Autre Observateur, also face possible trials after directors of two public companies accused them of defamation. Manzo spent 18 days in preventive detention earlier this year before being given a one-month suspended sentence for alleged defamation. For more information, see CPJ’s February 21 news alert.