Niger ALERT: Editor in detention

Mamane Abou, managing editor of the Le Republican newspaper was, in the morning of Wednesday November 5, 2003 arrested at his office and detained at the civilian prison in Niamey, the capital. Abou is charged with “conspiring with an employee to steal, and for receipt of [stolen] confidential documents.”

According to the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Niger, Abou was served with an arrest warrant issued by the ‘investigative magistrate’ of the Niamey Regional Tribunal.

The editor’s arrest is in connection with an article, which was published in the Issue No.582 of July 17-23, 2003, of the Le Republican newspaper. The article reported that the government made irregular expenses to the tune of CFA4 billion francs, most of which are alleged to have gone to businessmen close to the Prime Minister.

The publication provoked a series of press conferences hosted by the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister. The officials took unkindly to the article and announced that the government would take legal action.

MFWA takes note of the government’s use of the court as an instrument of repression and political vendetta. Nearly three weeks ago, on October 14, 2003, Ibrahim Sorley, managing editor of the weekly Le Enquêteur newspaper was sentenced to a 12-month “suspended jail term” by the Niamey Regional Court. Sorley was also barred from staying in the capital, Niamey for three months. He was charged with “inciting ethnic hatred and regionalism” following the publication of an article imputing nepotism in the award of government contracts.

MFWA appeals to the government of Prime Minister M. Hama Amadou to immediately and unconditionally release Mamane Abou from custody; and to discontinue the charges being brought against him merely for allegedly receiving “confidential documents.”

We request you to kindly protest the arrest and detention of Abou, and the repeated use of the courts to intimidate journalists and curtail critical media comment in Niger.

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