The transitional government of Niger issued a new media decree, that the country’s media and civil society groups said would restrict the flow of information and undermine the work of foreign media outlets and their journalists.
The decree signed by the country’s Minister of Communications, New Technologies and Culture, Madam Tacoubakoye Aminata, requireed foreign journalists and media outlets to seek clearancefrom her ministry and pay a huge non refundable fee before visiting the country to undertake films and documentaries.
Additionally, the decree also ordered foreign media outlets to deposit original copies of their final works with the Communication Directorate of the Ministry.
Article 6 of the Decree said: “…anyone applying for authorisation to film documentaries and reports must, before entering Niger, be in possession of a copy of the authorization signed by the Minister of Communication”, also “henceforth, any foreign media outfit, production agency, associations or NGO’s that want to do documentaries or reports must pay for them”. Television stations or production agencies and radio stations would pay FCFA two million (about 3,704US$) and one million FCFA (about US$ 1,852) respectively, while newspapers would pay FCFA 500,000 (about US$956) each. These fees do not exempt them from existing taxes, duties and levies.
“These new measures are a true obstruction of access to the right of public information in Niger. It is a setback for democracy…” Boubacar Diallo, the President of Nigerien Association of Private Newspaper Publishers said.
In another development, the National Communications Observatory (ONC), the organ responsible for media self regulation in Niger, on June 14 authorised the reopening of privately-owned Sahara FM. The station is based in Agadez, a town in the northern part of Niamey, the capital and was closed down on April 21, 2008 by the regime of President Mamadou Tandja. The closure followed an accusation of “disseminating information likely to incite hatred”. The authorities claimed that Sahara FM was undermining the morale of the country’s military during its fight against the Tuareg’s Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ).