In Niger, newspaper editor jailed without charge

New York, October 11, 2007—The director of a newspaper based in strife-torn northern Niger was arrested late Tuesday in the capital of Niamey on suspicions of links with France-based Radio France Internationale (RFI)—a station targeted by the government in recent months over its coverage of a deadly rebellion of nomadic Tuaregs, according to local journalists and news reports.

Ibrahima Manzo Diallo, director of the bimonthly Aïr Info, in the northern town of Agadez, was arrested by plainclothes police at Niamey’s airport as he prepared to board a flight to Paris to participate in a professional seminar of French daily Ouest France, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Diallo remained in police custody today without charge, but was transferred from a Niamey police station to an unknown destination, according to local journalists.

Diallo’s brother, Ali Diallo told AFP that the policeman who arrested Diallo at the airport accused him of working for RFI. RFI did not have records of any professional links with Diallo, RFI Africa Service Deputy Editor Wanda Marsadié told CPJ. Government spokesman Ben Omar Mohamed declined to comment.

“We condemn the outrageous arrest of Ibrahima Manzo Diallo on these laughable accusations,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “Association with a foreign news agency should not be the grounds for arrest. Authorities must immediately release Diallo and abandon regressive practices of intimidating and stifling the press.”

In its last edition, on September 26—the first since the paper resumed publishing after a three-month suspension imposed by the government in July over the paper’s critical coverage of its role in the conflict—Aïr Info had published a list of some 20 people arrested in the region on suspicion of links with the rebels, according to AFP. Authorities declared a three-month state of alert around Agadez in August, granting security forces blanket powers of arrest and detention.

The arrest followed the expulsion on Friday of French independent filmmaker François Bergeron, according to news reports. Bergeron was detained for a month after his arrest while filming in Agadez, according to French daily Libération.

Nigerien authorities have targeted RFI over its coverage of the deadly conflict, banning RFI special envoy Ghislaine Dupont from heading north, suspending for a month the station’s FM broadcasts, threatening and jailing correspondent Moussa Kaka. Kaka was thrown into jail on September 24 on charges of collusion with the rebels, allegedly based on yet to be made public recorded phone conversations.