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» 25.09.2009 - Nigerien editor face criminal libel charge
» 07.10.2008 - Niger radio director freed after 384 days
» 07.03.2008 - Editor jailed over "discredit"
» 03.03.2008 - RSF chief denied Niger visa
» 12.02.2008 - Court rejects Kaka's release
» 09.01.2008 - Landmine kills media chief
» 27.11.2007 - Niger court snubs illegal evidence
» 20.11.2007 - MFWA petitions bulldozers

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Niger govt continues to detain four journalists

afrol News, 4 September - The government of Niger is continuing to detain four journalists from two newspapers and a radio station, all accused of "publishing false information". The Attorney General reacted on a story implicating Niger was strengthening ties with Iran and Venezuela, and another story trying to document the practice of human sacrifices in Niamey.

Salif Dago, a journalist with 'L'Enquêteur', a bi-monthly privately-owned newspaper, who has been charged with publishing false news, made his first appearance at a regional court in Niamey on 1 September. According to sources speaking to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), the State Prosecutor requested a 12-month prison sentence for Mr Dago.

Mr Dago was arrested on 28 August and held in detention at the central police station in Niamey following a complaint filed against him by the country's Attorney General, regarding a story in the 14 August issue of 'L'Enquêteur', entitled "Black mass at Niamey cemetery". The story was about an unnamed man who allegedly killed a baby in a cemetery and bathed himself with the blood.

On 28 August, Ousmane Toudou, the station manager of 'Anfani Radio', an independent radio station based in Niamey, while commenting about the 'L'Enquêteur' story, criticised the police for not dealing more decisively with the menace of human sacrifices, which the radio station claimed had become "rampant" in Niamey.

Mr Ousmane was questioned at the police station and released the same day, but was asked to report back on 29 August. When he did so, he was detained.

Idrissa Soumana Maiga, publisher of the 'L'Enquêteur' told the MFWA source in Niamey that the newspaper's managing editor, who is out of the country, is on the police's wanted list in connection with the same story.

The Nigerien court is set to give its ruling on the case on 11 September. Meanwhile, the journalists are still in detention, according to MFWA.

Meanwhile, Mamane Abou and Oumarou Keita, respectively the managing editor and editor of the independent daily 'Le Republicain', remain detained in another case. The two men, who were arrested on 4 August, have been accused of publishing false information and defaming the state of Niger. They each face an 18-month prison term and a fine of 70,000 franc CFA (110 euro) if found guilty.

The accusations against the two journalists are allegedly being made in connection with an article entitled "Hama leaves the West for Iran", which was published in the 27 July edition of 'Le Republicain'. The article accused the government of Niger of strengthening its diplomatic ties with Iran and Venezuela to the detriment of those with Western countries.

The two journalists were reportedly arrested in response to a complaint made by Niger's Prime Minister, Hama Amadou, who was mentioned in this article.

Both defendants maintain that they are, in reality, being punished by the government for the publication of a series of articles in 'Le Republicain' starting in April of this year. These articles investigated the financing of primary education in Niger, reportedly uncovering evidence of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds on behalf of the government, evidence which led to an audit by foreign aid donors and eventually to the dismissal of the ministers for health and education amidst allegations of corruption.

The journalists were tried in a Niamey Regional Court on 14 August. The prosecutor requested an eighteen month sentence and a fine of 70,000 CFA Francs (110 euro) for each of the defendants; 12 months imprisonment and a fine of 50,000 CFA Francs (80 euro) each for the charge of publishing "false" information as well as a further six months imprisonment and fine of 20,000 CFA Francs (30 euro) each for the charge of defamation.

The journalists' defence lawyers, Moussa Coulibaly and Souley Omarou, walked out of the courthouse during the hearing, boycotting the trial in protest at alleged judicial irregularities. They questioned the legality of the trial, in which witnesses are not required to appear.

The lawyers also raised questions about the neutrality of judge Chaibou Moussa, who is presiding over the trial. Judge Moussa previously presided over a 2003 case in which Mamane Abou was sentenced to six months in prison for defamation, a verdict that was subsequently overturned by an appeals court.

Both lawyers fear for the safety of their clients, who have been remanded in custody in separate prisons far from the capital Niamey and outside of the court's administrative jurisdiction, according to the African media network RAP21.

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