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)
- Media freedom significantly deteriorated in Niger in 2009, primarily due to government interference with the country’s media regulator and an increase in legal harassment of journalists. The crackdown came as President Mamadou Tandja sought to extend his rule by dissolving the parliament in May and pushing through an August constitutional referendum that removed term limits and delayed the next presidential election.
- Although Niger’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it is often not respected in practice. Restrictions on coverage of an ongoing civil conflict, government control of media licensing, the requirement that journalists be accredited, a biased judiciary, and an aggressive application of criminal libel laws all limit media freedom and contribute to widespread self-censorship.
- Libel remains a criminal offense, and journalists who attempted to report on official wrongdoing frequently faced charges in 2009. In April, the publisher of independent weekly Le Courrier was arrested under a defamation complaint brought by the managing director of a state-owned water company. In August, the managing editors of eight publications were questioned for allegedly defaming Tandja’s son and two others. While six of the eight were released after a few hours, two remained in jail pending trial.
- Boussada Ben Ali, publisher of the weekly L’Action, was detained in January for an article questioning the finance minister’s involvement in a contract for medical equipment and an oil deal between Niger and China. Ben Ali was convicted of “disseminating false news likely to disturb public order,” and received a three-month jail sentence.
- Journalists were frequently summoned for questioning or detained in connection with stories or broadcasts, particularly those concerning corruption or coverage of political events, including opposition to the constitutional amendments on presidential term limits.
- The privately owned Dounia Media Group, which operated television and radio stations in Niamey, came under sustained harassment by the authorities. For example, two Dounia journalists were arrested in April for allegedly “broadcasting false information”; they were released on bail the next day. In late June, Dounia outlets were unilaterally shuttered by the president of the Supreme Council for Communications (CSC), the country’s media regulator, who accused them of broadcasting a call for Tandja’s resignation. However, the closure was reversed several days later after the stations won a legal appeal.
- In July, Tandja used emergency powers to amend the law on the CSC, granting more extensive authority to the council’s president and allowing him to unilaterally close media outlets on vaguely defined national security grounds. The CSC was also reduced in size to seven members, with presidential appointees filling four of the seats. The overhaul considerably undermined the independence of the CSC during the year. Independent media houses suspended operations for a week in late July to protest the changes.
- Because arrests and legal harassment constituted the government’s main method of media control in 2009, cases of physical attacks were less common.
- Both local and foreign journalists face restrictions on covering the ongoing insurgency in the north.
- 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. Some stations air programming from foreign services like Voice of America and Deutsche Welle. Radio is the most widely accessible source of news. 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 less than 1 percent of the population accessed it regularly in 2009 owing to the country’s high poverty rate and lack of infrastructure.