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)
Status change explanation: Niger declined from Partly Free to Not Free owing to the government’s attempts to control information related to the civil conflict in the north, including suspending the operation of critical media outlets, prosecuting journalists for libel, and harassing journalists who produced controversial reports.
Although Niger’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it is often not respected in practice. Conditions for the independent Nigerien media deteriorated considerably in 2007 owing to the government’s attempts to control information related to the civil conflict in the north with the nomadic Tuareg population, which began in February 2007 when members of the Mouvement des Nigeriens pour la Justice (MNJ) carried out attacks on the army in the northern town of Iferouane. During the year, Nigerien authorities have suspended the operation of critical media outlets, prosecuted journalists for libel, and harassed journalists for controversial materials, particularly those containing coverage of the civil conflict.
As a direct result of the conflict, Nigerien authorities have sharply limited the media’s ability to report on events in the north and have suspended a number of stations for their coverage. On June 29, Niger’s regulatory body, the Supreme Council for Communications (CSC), suspended Air Info, a private paper from the northern Agadez region, for three months for covering the MNJ’s activities and withheld the outlet’s annual subsidy of US$3,000. On July 19, the government imposed a one-month ban on the retransmission of Radio France Internationale (RFI) owing to alleged bias in favor of the MNJ. Furthermore, in late August, the government banned live broadcasts of the MNJ, which occurred in the context of a countrywide state of emergency imposed on August 24 in response to heightened rebel attacks. In late October, the CSC issued a warning to media outlets that criticism of it could lead to the revoking of broadcasting licenses.
Throughout 2007, journalists also faced threats of detention and criminal prosecution for coverage of the conflict. On September 21, authorities arrested and later imprisoned Moussa Kaka, director of the private station Radio Saraounya and a correspondent for RFI and Reporters Sans Frontieres. Kaka was later charged with “complicity in a conspiracy against state authority” owing to coverage of the MNJ’s activities and the government’s counterinsurgency efforts. Although a court in November rejected the evidence against Kaka, he remained imprisoned at year’s end. Earlier in July, an army officer threatened Kaka with death for covering the conflict in the north. On October 9, Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, Air Info’s managing editor, was arrested prior to boarding a flight to France for his alleged involvement in antigovernment demonstrations. Diallo had been previously arrested in July for operating his publication under a new name, Info de l’Air, after the original Air Info had been suspended in June. On October 31, Diallo was charged with criminal association for alleged ties to the MNJ rebels, and he remained imprisoned at year’s end. Daouda Yacouba, an Air Info correspondent, was arrested on October 25, questioned about his links with Tuareg rebels, and released in early November.
Foreign journalists also faced imprisonment for coverage of events in the north. At the end of August, authorities detained the French filmmaker Francois Bergeron for filming a documentary on the Tuaregs in the north; Bergeron was released on October 6. Separately, on December 17, two French citizens on assignment with the French-German television station Arte, reporter Thomas Dandois and cameraman Pierre Creisson, were arrested and later charged with undermining state security upon allegations that they had traveled illegally to the north. At year’s end, Dandois and Creisson were still imprisoned near Niamey; this offense is punishable by death.
Journalists faced other instances of intimidation and harassment throughout the year unrelated to the Tuareg uprising in the north. In October, Hamadou Boulama, editor in chief of the bimonthly paper Alternative, received a death threat allegedly linked to a story published in October suggesting that the 2009 presidential election would not be competitive. In early December, Ibrahim Souley, managing editor of the bimonthly L’Enqueteur, and Soumana Idrissa Maiga, the paper’s founder, were arrested and held for 72 hours following libel charges brought by the minister of finance and economic planning owing to the paper’s allegations of corruption within the ministry. Their case was pending at year’s end, and both remained in pretrial detention.
State media continue to dominate the broadcasting landscape and consistently reflect the government line. Nevertheless, there are 15 private radio stations that broadcast in French and other local languages. Although private publications have been very critical of the government, they have limited influence due to a literacy rate of only 29 percent. Restrictive press licensing legislation and a heavy tax on private media outlets continue to inhibit the emergence of a dynamic press. Although the government does not restrict internet access, less than 0.3 percent of the population accessed it regularly owing to the high level of poverty and lack of infrastructure.