CPJ mourns the loss of Niger radio director

CPJ mourns the loss of Niger radio director

New York, January 9, 2008—CPJ mourns the untimely death of the director of Niger’s first independent radio station, Radio R & M (Radio and Music), based in the capital, Niamey, after his car drove over a landmine yesterday on the city’s outskirts.

Abdou Mahamane, commonly known as “Jeannot,” hit the landmine while driving his Toyota home through Yantala, a suburb west of Niamey. Mahamane, who was also the vice president of the national press association, Maison de la Presse, died in a local hospital around midnight, according to local news reports. A woman passenger also sustained minor injuries from the explosion, the reports said.

“We mourn the loss of Abdou Mahamane, a pioneer in developing Niger’s independent media, and send our condolences to his family,” said CPJ’s Executive Director Joel Simon. Mahamane, 50, helped launch Radio R & M in 1992 and was one of the leaders of the Association for the Promotion of Private Radio in Niger.

No one has claimed responsibility for the explosion and it is unclear whether the journalist was deliberately targeted, but authorities say they have opened an investigation into the incident. Yantala is a residential area for many high-ranking army officers, a local journalist told CPJ. The explosion took place near an electricity plant that supplies Niamey. This was the first landmine blast near the capital city in recent memory, although many major cities throughout the country have been hit with such explosions since a civil conflict began in February 2007; the government is fighting a rebel group called the Movement for Justice in Niger.

Journalists are banned from visiting the northern region of Niger, where the rebels are based. Two French journalists were arrested last year for ignoring the ban and were accused of colluding with the rebels; they remain in prison outside the capital. Two Nigerian journalists, Moussa Kaka, correspondent for French broadcaster Radio France Internationale, and Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, publisher of Agadez-based newspaper Aïr Info, also remain behind bars on similar charges.