New York, April 5, 2018–Nigerien authorities should reverse the expulsion of journalist Baba Alpha and ensure his safety, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. After jailing him for a year, authorities on April 3 released Baba Alpha, a journalist with the privately owned radio and television news agency Bonferey, and drove him to Labbezanga, a town in northeastern Mali on the border with Niger, the journalist told CPJ.
“Baba Alpha’s year-long imprisonment and expulsion by the Nigerien government is an outrage of justice intended to silence a journalist for doing his job,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator. “Nigerien authorities should allow Baba Alpha to continue to work freely and live in safety with his family in Niger.”
The expulsion order, which was seen by CPJ, came from Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s minister of interior. Alpha’s release and expulsion followed a March 12 Nigerien appeals court decision to suspend the second year of his two-year prison sentence, according to the journalist, his lawyer Amadou Boubacar, and media reports.
“I am born in Niger, I was grown in Niger, I did my studies in Niger, I married a Nigerien, and both my children were born in Niger,” Alpha told CPJ from Labbezanga. His imprisonment and expulsion without identity documents were in reprisal for his critical reporting about the Nigerien government, he said. “I’m practically in detention in the middle [on the Niger and Malian border] and can’t go either way,” he said. Mali’s Gao region, where Labbezanga is located, is a particularly violent site of the years-long conflict between the government, rebels, and Islamic militants, news reports say.
Alpha was arrested on March 30, 2017, and was charged on April 3, 2017, with the use of false documents asserting his Nigerien nationality, according to CPJ research.