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 Niger’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it is often not respected in practice, due primarily to government restrictions on coverage of an ongoing civil conflict. Fighting between the government and the ethnic Tuareg Movement of Nigeriens for Justice (MNJ) rebel group continued in 2008 despite Libyan-led mediation efforts in August.
- President Mamadou Tandja kept the country’s restive northern region under a continuous state of emergency during the year. The government’s crackdown on the media continued in 2008, with the arrest of several journalists and the closure of media outlets. The emergency also included a ban on live broadcasts concerning the government’s actions in the north.
- Government control of media licensing, the requirement that journalists be accredited, and an aggressive application of libel laws all contributed to the deterioration of media freedom and widespread self-censorship.
- In March, the High Council for Communication (CSC), Niger’s media regulatory body, suspended retransmission of Radio France Internationale (RFI) for three months. This followed the station’s March 10 show of solidarity with Moussa Kaka, an RFI correspondent who had been imprisoned since September 2007 for allegedly undermining state authority through his coverage of the rebels.
- In April, the CSC indefinitely suspended a key private radio station in the Agadez region, Sahara FM, due to the station’s coverage of possible abuses by Nigerien soldiers.
- Authorities also closed a press resource center for journalists in Niamey in July based on charges that it was under “external” influence, and suspended the private broadcaster Dounia for one month in August, possibly due to its favorable coverage of detained former prime minister Hama Amadou.
- Several journalists were arrested during the year for criticizing the government officials or other high-profile individuals. Among other cases, the director of the private L’Eveil Plus newspaper, Aboubacar Gourouza, was sentenced in February to one month in jail for “discrediting Niger’s justice system” through criticism of a public official; he was released in March. In July, authorities arrested a senior staff member of the private L’Evenement newspaper, Moussa Aksar, accusing him of “divulging military secrets” for reporting on a weapons cache. He was released on August 1, but was then rearrested in November along with his assistant, Sani Aboubacar, following an article that was critical of the director of a local power company. The men were released on November 19 after receiving three-month suspended jail sentences.
- On a positive note, several journalists arrested in 2007 were released during the year, including four foreign journalists in January 2008; Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, editor of the private Agadez-based Air Info, in February; and Moussa Kaka, the RFI correspondent, in October.
- Some 45 private newspapers compete with a state-run daily in the print media market.
- The state continues to dominate the broadcasting landscape, though there are 15 private radio stations that broadcast in French and local languages. Three private television stations operate alongside two state-run stations.
- Restrictive press licensing legislation and a heavy tax on private media outlets hinder the development of the private media sector.
- Although the government does not restrict internet access, only 0.3 percent of the population accessed it regularly owing to the country’s high level of poverty and lack of infrastructure.