Following is the text of remarks by Grémah Boucar of Niger's Anfani newspaper and magazine, and Radio Anfani, one of the country's only private radio station, upon receiving the 1998 CPJ International Press Freedom Award in ceremonies November 24, 1998, at 9 p.m. at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.
The staff of Agence Anfani, Nigers first truly private multimedia and communications group with four Radio Anfani stations and publisher of Anfani magazine and newspaper, is very honored today that I am here to accept CPJs International Press Freedom Award. At its inception in January 1989, our goal at Radio Anfani was to break the governments broadcast monopoly and to contribute to the awareness and entertainment of our fellow citizens through modern tools of communications.
After 30 years of censorship, journalists in Niger can still only hope to practice our noble profession in total freedom. In January 1992, we founded Anfani magazine with the ambition to be a canvas for analysis and opinions on a wide range of subjects. However, with Nigers desperate poverty, with illiteracy rates over 70% and where the oral tradition is still the main mode of communication, it was difficult to reach a majority of the population. These are the concerns that led us to get involved in broadcasting.
Today, our radio station has been broadcasting for almost four years in Niamey; in Zinder for one year; and we will soon launch new stations in Maradi and Diffa, with the goal of reaching 75% of the 9 million population.
Since the military coup détat of January 27, 1996, the Nigerien press and in particular, Radio Anfani, has been the objects of numerous threats and harassment. Our equipment was destroyed in March 1997; our radio stations have been forced off the air twice for no valid reasons; my colleagues and I have been jailed myself nine times--threatened with death and intimidated for any critical reporting, and we face a government advertising embargo.
Nevertheless, since freedom is not going to be given to us, we will have to take it. In spite of the persecution, we continue to fight, uncompromised, for our right to practice our profession and inform the citizens. Radio Anfani is and will continue to be free and independent from any power, a radio for the people, for democracy, and for human rights and progress. We are the fruit of the brief period of democracy that Niger enjoyed earlier this decade, and our survival depends on our spreading the principles of democracy.
It was the thousands of our fellow citizens who marched in the streets to the Radio Anfani offices when we were last forced off the air who forced the Mainassara regime to reconsider their actions against the press. And it was CPJ who brought the persecution of Radio Anfani to the international community, leading to an international outcry about our crisis.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the award that CPJ is giving us tonight allows us an opportunity to express our conviction that development cannot be separated from the expansion of a free press. Ours is a struggle against ignorance, poverty, anarchy, and dictatorship.
To conclude, we would like to thank all of you for your support. And we assure you that your interest in our struggle will give rise to a new breath of hope among all journalists in Niger, especially those facing persecution, so that they know they are not alone.