Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although the constitution guarantees rights to freedom of the press and of expression, the government continued to infringe on these rights in 2003. Libel and slander are regarded as criminal offenses and are punished by imprisonment as well as fines. In November, Maman Abou, director of the weekly Le Republicain, was tried in absentia and found guilty of defamation for an article alleging that the government awarded contracts to several businesses close to the prime minister without going through the competitive bidding process. His sentencing to six months in prison coupled with large fines triggered protests by the political opposition and civil society. The previous month, the publication director of the weekly L'Enqueteur had received a one-year suspended sentence and was banished from the capital for an article that authorities said incited ethnic hatred. Authorities also closed 15 independent radio stations during the year, but the move appeared to stem from a dispute over how licenses were issued rather than from a desire to limit press freedom. Other private stations were warned not to broadcast news that could "endanger peace and public order," according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Coverage in the state-owned broadcast and print media reflects official priorities. Although a number of private publications freely criticize the government, journalists are regularly arrested and detained by police as a result of their reporting. Media outlets' financial viability is threatened by a law that imposes heavy taxes on private news outlets as well as by Niger's generally depressed economy.