The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) welcomes the release of journalist, Samira Sabou, after 11 days in detention, and condemns her arbitrary arrest which should not have happened in the first place.
Sabou is facing charges of disseminating data likely to disturb public order, and could spend up to three years in prison in addition to a fine of up to 5 million West African francs (US$8,080).
On October 11, 2023, a magistrate court in Niamey granted provisional release to Sabou and ordered her to notify the court one week ahead of any travel.
The journalist, who regularly posts news and commentary on her Facebook page, is also accused of treason by maintaining “intelligence with a foreign power,” which carries the death penalty, according to Article 31 of the cybercrime law and Article 63 of the penal code.
Samira was arrested on September 30, 2023, by four unknown men in plain clothes and taken to an unknown location, according her husband who was present during the abduction. A hood was placed over her head and her phone seized.
Her prosecution is in connection to her interaction with foreign diplomats, her use of an aircraft flight tracking app called Flightradar24, and her Facebook post published a day before her arrest. The publication was allegedly about a document detailing assignments of Niger’s military personnel.
On October 7, 2023, the Judicial police, after denying their involvement in her arrest, called Sabou’s lawyer to inform him that Sabou was held in custody at their service where she would be detained for 11 days.
The MFWA is extremely concerned about the safety of journalist Samira Sabou and urges the authorities of Niger to drop all charges against her. The bail conditions, including prohibition from leaving the jurisdiction without notice and from practicing any form of journalism that may checkmate the junta’s stewardship, is just another way of gagging free independent and critical journalism.