Moussa Kaka

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The rise of extremist groups who target journalists is a potent risk. By Mohamed Keita

(AFP/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Salou Djibo is leader of the coup that overthrew Niger's President Mamadou Tandja. (AFP/Sia Kambou)

When a coup occurs somewhere in the world, journalists are usually the first to be sidelined. Beyond the classic scene of a new leader addressing the nation and promising democracy, stability, and wealth, reporters are usually simply undesirable within the new leadership's entourage.

With a simmering insurgency in the north, a split within the ruling government, and talk of a constitutional amendment to allow President Mamadou Tandja to run for a third term in 2009, authorities increasingly tightened restrictions on the press. The high-profile imprisonment of Moussa Kaka, a reporter well known for his coverage of the insurgency, illustrated tensions between the government and the press.


New York, October 7, 2008--The Committee to Protect Jounalists welcomes today's provisional release of veteran Nigerien journalist Moussa Kaka after more than a year behind bars on anti-state charges.

An appeals court in the capital, Niamey, ordered Kaka's release on bail pending trial by a magistrate court on amended charges of "undermining national territorial integrity through conspiracy with Tuareg rebels," defense lawyer Boureïma Fodi told CPJ. The charges, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, represent a lesser offense than the previous accusation of "complicity in undermining the authority of the state," which carries a life sentence, according to Fodi.


New York, August 20, 2008—Authorities in Niger summarily suspended a private broadcaster for a month citing unspecified regulatory violations, according to local journalists and news reports. The station has provided sympathetic coverage of the country’s former prime minister, now jailed on corruption charges, according to several sources.

In a ruling obtained by CPJ, the state-run High Council on Communications found Dounia Television and Radio in “noncompliance with regulatory terms and conditions,” but provided no further explanation. Dounia Deputy Director-General Ali Idrissa disputed the vague allegation, saying the station did not receive notice about any such issue prior to the ruling. Today, Council President Daouda Diallo declined to comment to CPJ, saying he was in a meeting. “The suspension of Dounia Television and Radio on unsubstantiated grounds is part of a pattern of a government censorhip of media outlets, whether local or foreign, for critical coverage,” said Robert Mahoney, CPJ’s deputy director. “We call on the government to lift this suspension immediately and allow the station to broadcast freely.”

NIGER:

June 12, 2008
Posted July 24, 2008

Original alert: March 13, 2008Radio France Internationale
CENSORED

French broadcaster Radio France Internationale resumed FM broadcasts in Niger following a three-month suspension imposed by Niger authorities in March, according to news reports.

New York, March 13, 2008—Niger’s official media regulator summarily suspended on Wednesday the FM broadcasts of France-based Radio France Internationale (RFI) for three months. Authorities accused RFI of discrediting the government in connection with a day-long series of programs on Monday about the detention of RFI correspondent Moussa Kaka.

President Mamadou Tandja pledged in January that his government would not obstruct the press, but journalists in Niger faced threats and restrictions as the military tried to repress a budding Tuareg insurgency in the north. In a country that has suffered devastating famines in recent years, food shortages remained another sensitive topic for the press. Local journalists continued to face the threat of jail time for critical reporting under Niger's 1999 media law, despite a promise in January by then-Prime Minister Hama Amadou that a long-discussed bill to decriminalize press offenses would be introduced in parliament. Amadou resigned in June following a parliamentary no-confidence vote, and his successor, Seyni Oumarou, did not indicate whether he would follow up on the issue.

CPJ mourns the loss of Niger radio director

New York, January 9, 2008—CPJ mourns the untimely death of the director of Niger’s first independent radio station, Radio R & M (Radio and Music), based in the capital, Niamey, after his car drove over a landmine yesterday on the city’s outskirts.

Abdou Mahamane, commonly known as “Jeannot,” hit the landmine while driving his Toyota home through Yantala, a suburb west of Niamey. Mahamane, who was also the vice president of the national press association, Maison de la Presse, died in a local hospital around midnight, according to local news reports. A woman passenger also sustained minor injuries from the explosion, the reports said.

New York, December 21, 2007—Two French journalists detained since Monday in the capital, Niamey, will now be tried in court, an official announced today.

Journalist Thomas Dandois and cameraman Pierre Creisson of Franco-German TV network Arte Television were arrested south of Niamey after police allegedly discovered footage and photos of rebel Tuareg leaders, government spokesman Ben Omar Mohamed told Agence France-Presse. The journalists, officially in Niger to cover a story about bird flu in the southern city of Maradi, had been “under surveillance since the beginning,” he said. 

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