The Media Foundation for West Africa has followed with increasing concern, the persecution of the founder and Director of Publications of Le Courrier newspaper, Ali Soumana by the authorities in Niger over a publication on a legal issue.
Soumana was arrested and detained by the police on June 29, 2017, following a publication by Le Courrier in which the newspaper alleged that the court was in the process of issuing an arrest warrant against the Manager Director of biometric printing firm Africard, Dany Chaccour and Boubacar Dicko, who was the sole arbiter in a legal dispute between the printing company and the Nigerien State.
To support the assertion, the paper published a copy of the preparatory prosecution document dated March 27, 2017 in which the prosecutor was directing that an arrest warrant be issued against the afore-mentioned persons. Africard is engaged in a legal tussle with the government for breach of contract to print biometric passports for Nigerien citizens.
After Soumana’s arrest, the police on July 1, 2017, raided his home, and later, his office, in search of clues about the newspaper’s source of information related to the case.
The police first accused him of violating judicial confidentiality, but later charged him with fraudulently obtaining documents related to a court trial.
On July 3, 2017, Soumana was arraigned before a Niamey High Court. The trial judge issued a committal order against him, authorising his detention in prison custody pending the conclusion of his trial. Soumana was, therefore, transferred from police custody to prison.
Meanwhile, la Maison de la Presse, an umbrella body made up of about twenty journalists’ associations in Niger have, in a communiqué, protested the arrest of Soumana which they say is in breach of the press law of June 4 2010.
“La Maison de la Presse denounces any violation of the existing law regulating the work of journalists,” read the communiqué.
The MFWA equally condemns the arrest, detention and harassment of Soumana as a violation Niger’s June 2010 press law which scrapped criminal prosecution for press offenses. Consequently, we urge the authorities in Niger to release him and drop all charges against him.