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Africa | Niger
Society | Human rights | Media

AU comments Niger journalist release

afrol News, 10 October - In a move unheard of, the African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson has expressed "satisfaction at the liberation" of Nigerien journalist Moussa Kaka, thus indirectly criticising the decision of jailing him in the first place.

The Chairperson of the AU's Commission, Jean Ping, yesterday issued a press release where he expressed "satisfaction at the temporary release from prison, of the correspondent of 'Radio France International' (RFI) in Niger, Moussa Kaka." He added that he reiterated his "confidence in Niger's judiciary system."

The Chairperson's reaction came immediately after the temporary release of the Nigerien journalist. Such a move - commenting on concrete a human rights and press freedom case in one particular AU member country – has been unheard of in the AU's top administration.

Jean Ping is a citizen of Gabon - a country where press freedom is far less respected than in Niger – where he acted as Foreign Minister from 1999 to 2008. Since February this year, he has been Chairperson of the Commission of the AU. Mr Ping now is seemingly developing a more outspoken and personal style in this top office, compared to his predecessors.

For the AU Commission, the signal sent after the release of journalist Kaka is surprisingly strong, as it pinpoints a questionable decision in Niger when it comes to human rights and press freedom by welcoming the lifting of that decision. This indirect criticism of Niger authorities is unheard of and may represent a tougher AU tone when it comes to human rights violations in member countries.

Mr Kaka was arrested in September last year. Niger's public prosecutor claimed that the phone calls he had made in the course of his reporting with one of the leaders of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a Tuareg rebel group based in the north of the county, were evidence of "conniving" with the rebels. His arrest on these reasons was strongly condemned by national, regional and international press freedom watchdogs.

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