In response to increasing criticism from the press, he granted the head of the official media regulatory agency sweeping powers of censorship in June. The Niger Association of Independent Press Editors, which comprises 60 newspapers, 23 radio stations, and four television stations across the country, reacted by launching a weeklong strike in protest on July 20.
Article 130 of the new constitution would allow the president to handpick four of the seven members of the High Council on Communications. The communications minister (and government spokesman) and the speakers of the National Assembly and Senate designate the other three members. In contrast, the current 11-member council counts five political appointees with six members from the press and civil society.
For years, the council has suspended media outlets for
critical coverage of sensitive topics, including the constitutional amendment.
In June, for example, it banned live programming discussing
Under the proposed restructuring of the constitution, the media will suffer, journalists have told CPJ. "We are certain that many press outlets will be closed," said local editor Boubacar Diallo. "The die is cast."
Despite the critical issue at stake in today's referendum, Diallo and many other journalists I spoke with said they boycotted the vote, citing a ruling of the now-defunct constitutional court declaring the poll illegal. "For us, it's a non-event," said Editor-in-Chief Ayouba Karimou of the weekly Opinions.
for the vote in the capital,
The situation for journalists in
Weekly L'Evènement Editor Moussa Aksar was in
Nevertheless, the private Nigerien press regularly reports allegations of misuse of public funds, and some of the media's investigations have been vindicated, even at the price of imprisonment. In 2006, for instance, journalists Maman Abou and Oumarou Keita of the biweekly Le Républicain broke a scandal in education financing, which eventually led to the sacking of two ministers, but not before serving four months of an 18-month prison sentence that was later overturned.