Niger editor sentenced to prison

New York, August 19, 2009The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a prison sentence given on Tuesday to the editor of a private newspaper in Niger. Abdoulaye Tiémogo, editor of the weekly Le Canard Déchaîné, has been in police custody in the capital, Niamey, since August 1. 

The journalist was convicted of “casting discredit on a judicial ruling” in connection with a television interview. Tiémogo discussed Le Canard Déchaîné‘s coverage of the government’s decision to issue an international arrest warrant for exiled former Prime Minister Hama Amadou on corruption charges. Hamadou had denied the allegations and dismissed the arrest warrant as harassment.

Tiémogo will appeal a three-month prison sentence and request bail, defense lawyer Marc Le Bihan told CPJ.

Le Bihan said Tiémogo was originally arrested and questioned over stories reporting alleged corruption scandals involving high-ranking officials, including the justice minister and President Mamadou Tandja’s son. The prosecution dropped the cases to charge Tiémogo under the penal code instead, he said.

“The prosecution of Abdoulaye Tiémogo is part of an unrelenting crackdown on journalists investigating corruption and criticizing the policies of the government of President Mamadou Tandja,” said CPJ Africa Program Director Tom Rhodes. “We call on the appeals court to reverse this ruling. Tiémogo should be released immediately.”

The editor was in hiding from August 2008 until May following a libel complaint filed by Tandja over a column suggesting the former army colonel was preparing his son to succeed him, according to CPJ research. The case was dropped. In 2002, Tiémogo served an eight-month prison sentence over stories alleging corruption by then-Prime Minister Amadou. The journalist was jailed for his coverage just before a controversial national referendum on a constitutional amendment that increased presidential control of the press