The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) strongly condemns the suspension of media umbrella organisation, Maison de la Presse, and calls on the Nigerien authorities to reverse its decision.
The Maison de la Presse in Niger was suspended and barred from engaging in any activities within the country until further notice, as communicated in a statement dated January 29, 2024 by the Ministry of the Interior, General of Brigade Mohamed Toumba. The communication offered no explanation for the suspension but rather announced the establishment of an ad hoc committee, comprised of individuals appointed by the government, to oversee the umbrella organisation.
The suspension came a month after the Ministry of Interior barred the organisation from holding its general assembly to elect new Board of Directors. The Ministry cited petitions it had received from some member associations of the Maison de la Persse, in which the petitioners complained about alleged improper conduct by the Board.
The president of the Maison de la Presse, Ibrahim Harouna, told the MFWA that the suspension is unfortunate, especially when the media is facing challenges that the Maison de la Presse has, and is, involved in helping to resolve. He said he has personally been accused of raising false alarm about press freedom repression in the country.
In November 2023, during the celebration of National Press Freedom Day, organised by the Maison de la Presse, the minister for Communication, Post and the Digital Economy, Sidi Mohamed Raliou rejected all accusations regarding press freedom violations in Niger. Describing such reports as unpatriotic, Mr. Raliou reprimanded Ibrahim Harouna. In what is chilling evidence that the government has been monitoring his movements and engagements, the minister cited Harouna’s remarks during a conference in Ghana.
The MFWA views the Niger government’s action as a dangerous precedent and untenable. It is for the members and member organisations of the Maison de la Presse to decide who and how to run the institution. For the Government to constitute an interim Board for the Maison de la Presse, which is not an agency of the state, after several criticism of leadership, is a clear case of vendetta and an attempt to choose “obedient” leaders for the organisation. The action confirms the very accusations that press freedom is under repression; the same accusation that the government is vehemently denying.
We call for the lifting of the suspension of the Board as well as the interdiction of the general assembly to enable the outgoing Board organise elections.