Posted: April 1, 2005
As part of a wide attempt by authorities in Niger to suppress independent media coverage of protests against a new tax on basic foodstuffs, electricity and water, Interior Minister Mounkaila Modi appeared on state television to warn journalists against covering the activities of a group of civil society organizations calling themselves the "Coalition Against Costly Living."
The controversial new tax provoked widespread protests and civil disobedience in the impoverished country. On March 22, the coalition organized a general strike to protest the tax, which nearly shut down the capital, Niamey, according to news reports. The same day, police in the western city of Zinder searched the offices of a privately-owned broadcaster and confiscated a videocassette containing footage of local protests against the tax.
By the end of the week, five leaders of the coalition were behind bars, facing accusations of threatening state security. Several of the leaders had been interviewed by local radio stations, and had urged religious leaders to pray in order to save Nigeriens from poverty. A government spokesman told the UN's IRIN news service that their statements constituted a "veiled call to rebellion."