Niger: 16 Incidents of Free Expression Violations in 2015, President Urged to Improve Situation

On March 7 2016, the Council of Ministers of Niger adopted a draft decree submitted by Yahouza Sadissou, the Minister  of Communication instituting November 30 as Niger National Press Day.

In November 2011, President Issoufou Mahamadou was the first Head of State to approve the Table Mountain Declaration.

On January 18 2016, Niger was subjected to its second UPR (Universal Periodic Review) from the United Nations Council on Human Rights. Niger subscribed to the recommendations and accepted to implement them in order to improve the enjoyment of Freedom of Expression rights and put an end to impunity for crimes perpetrated against journalists by State actors.

Following the swearing-in of the President and the taking up of appointment by the members of his government, it is the ideal occasion to bring to President Mahamadou Issoufou’s attention some of the pressing Freedom of Expression challenges in Niger. During his first mandate, the press landscape in Niger witnessed incidents of violations of Human Rights, with 2015 recording the highest number of violations, notably in respect of Freedom of Expression, Safety of Journalists and Impunity Against Journalists.

A year before the presidential elections, Niger recorded at least 16 cases of violations of the rights to Freedom of Expression. Police and security forces were the major perpetrators of these violations which saw Niger ranking second to Nigeria (34 cases of violations in term of violations of Freedom of Expressionin the Annual Report of MFWA for 2015. The year 2015 was the period of elections preparations for presidential run-off. Instead of testifying to the consolidation of Democracy in Niger by shoring up the enjoyment of Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Expression, 2015 rather proved to be a year of reversal in term of what had been gained through the arduous fight for human rights in general, and particularly of violations linked to Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Press and Assembly.

On January 17 police stormed the premises of the media group Tenere, and disrupted the radio station’s transmission for 15 minutes; followed by the attacks and intimidation. On that same day, police used force against a crew of Tenere reporters and media group Labari.

On January 18 police and security forces verbally and physically assaulted journalists;  fired tear gas and used clubs on journalists of Canal 3, Niger 24, Liptako, Africable, Radio RM and Sarraouina. On the same date, the police physically attacked journalists of the Bonferey media group, again using clubs and firing tear gas. Still on January 18, Moussa Tchangari, Chief Editor of the bi-monthly magazine Alternative and General  Secretary of the civil society group Organisation de l’Association Alternative Espace Citoyen, was detained for allegedly being involved with Boko Haram.

On January 21 a judge in a Niamey Court fined journalists Issofou Oumarou Azouma and Souleymane Salha of Le Courrier newspaper an amount of FCFA 10.5 million(US$ 18, 500) in a libel case filed by a Minister, Ali Mariama El Ibrahim.

On January 25 three opposition leaders and a social media activist, Ibrahim Bana were taken into police custody following  a warrant issued by a judge related to demonstrations against the cartooning of the Prophet Mohamed by the French satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

On March 31 Oumarou Aliou Modibo, director of publication of the weekly satiric Canard Dechainé, was arrested and questioned by the Attorney General for alleged defamation against a former Minister of Justice.

On May 21 a journalist of the State-owned Office de Publication et des Editions Nationales de la Presse, was the target of whipping by a member of the Presidential security guard.

On October 19 five journalists were arrested on their duty line covering a demonstration of students.

On November 4 two journalists were summoned by the police. Roufai Dan Doua and Zabeiron Souley respectively from the weekly newspapers «90 Minutes» and « Le Nouveau » following a complaint sued by the Niger Football President Association.

On November 14 police arrested four journalists; Alou Aboubacar, Abdoulaye Souley of TV Bonfrey and Sidiku Haruna, Luc Ogoa from TV Niger for filming Hama Amadou supporters and preventing them from covering the home coming of the opposition leader from exile.

On  November 23 the editor of the weekly newspaper le Courier, Souley Sahla  was placed in custodial detention for having published an article criticizing the Deputy Director of the  police in connection with the arrest of the former Speaker of Parliament, Hama Amadou.

There was also three weeks of Facebook blackout ordered by the authorities ostensibly to curb political tension and use of intemperate languages.

President Mahamadou Issoufou
President Mahamadou Issoufou

As President Issoufou Mahamadou assumes his second mandate as the head of Niger, the MFWA and her national partner in Niger ONIMED: “Observatoire Nigerien Indépendant des Médias pour l’Ethique et la Déontologie”, wish to congratulate him on his re-election. We also take the opportunity to bring the unenviable Freedom of Expression environment in Niger as evidenced above to his attention for his diligent redress. We wish also to remind the President of the recommendations of the United Nations Council on Human Rights to which his own government has subscribed and accepted. MFWA in partnership with ONIMED, is urging President Issoufou Mahamadou to honor his engagement in relation to regional and international covenants and declarations which Niger and himself have signed on human rights protection, and particularly by promoting Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Press, and by strengthening Human Rights protection institutions in the country.

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