The Media Foundation for West Africa deplores the serial press freedom violations in Niger over the past two weeks, and urges the new military government to take steps to protect the media and Niger’s civic space.
In the latest act of repression, the junta on August 3, 2023 suspended two French media channels, France 24 and RFI from broadcasting in the country, capping two weeks of frenzied aggression against the media in the country. The two channels are subsidiaries of France Medias Monde, owned by the French government.
Access to the two channels were blocked on August 3, exactly a week after the July 26 overthrow of the elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who was perceived to be pro-France.
On July 30, 2023, fanatics supporting the coup heckled and threatened Anne-Fleur Lespiaut, a reporter for the French channel TV5 Monde and Stanislas Poyet, a correspondent for Le Figaro, also a French newspaper. The two received the threat while covering a procession in support of the new military leaders.
On July 28, some unidentified individuals also attacked media personnel from Radio Anfani and harassed a crew member of Bonferey TV, both privately-owned media organisations. The attack happened during a press conference at the headquarters of the party of deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya). Bonferey TV had a camera damaged in the course of the fray.
The Director of Bonferey TV, Moustapha Zongoma, however, told the MFWA that the station’s journalist Souleymane Ousmane, who was harassed was not necessarily attacked because he is a journalist as he was at that point without any identification as a journalist.
“He was not easily identifiable as a journalist, so the thugs might not have targeted him because of his work,” Zongoma said.
Maison de la Press, the umbrella media professionals group in Niger, however, issued a statement in Niamey, on the same day, to express its concern about the threats to press freedom and the safety of journalists state and non-state actors in the country.
On July 26, the day of the coup, soldiers invaded at least five media houses and stayed for hours before leaving their premises. The affected media houses included Bonferey TV, Niger 24, Radio Anfani, Radio-Television Ténéré and Dounia TV.
“They said they had come to assure our security and posted two soldiers at the control room, one in front of my office,” the Director of Bonferey TV, Moustapha Zongoma, told the MFWA in a telephone conversation. He added that while the military officers were not violent, he was sure they had come to make sure that the station would not do any anti-coup broadcasting.
The MFWA joins the media fraternity in Niger and West Africa to condemn the attacks on the media in Niger. The repressive beginning of the junta regime augurs ill for press freedom and the civic space in the country. We call on the junta government to allow RFI and France 24 to resume broadcasting for the benefit of the millions of their audiences whose rights to information are being violated by the suspension. We also urge the authorities to restrain their supporters, the defense and security forces and all disgruntled persons from harassing or attacking the media.