Protect press freedom – MFWA, 79 others urge Niger’s junta

Eighty (80) press freedom organisations and senior journalists across Africa, including the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) have signed a statement calling on the military government in Niger to protect press freedom and end the rampaging violence against journalists in the country.

The statement recounts the barrage of threats and attacks against journalists as well as the suspension of two French media channels since the July 27, 2023 coup, and urges the government to take steps to end the anti-media frenzy.

Niger has always been a difficult terrain for journalists as a result of the decade-old extremist violence in many parts of the country. The country has become a minefield for the media following the recent coup, with almost daily attacks and intimidation against journalists. The situation prompted 18 press freedom organisations across Africa and 62 senior journalists in 24 African countries to issue a statement to express their concern.

“We, journalists, directors of media outlets and press freedom advocacy organisations, established and working in Africa, have received reports of numerous attacks on press freedom since the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) seized power in Niger on 26 July 2023,” the statement reads.

Among the incidents is an inquisitorial phone call by a soldier to journalist and blogger Samira Sabou over her publications, leading to her public announcement that she is suspending her publications as a result of the “denial of the right to practice the profession ethically.”

In another incident highlighted by the statement, journalist Soufiane Maman Hassan, publisher of the newspaper Le Témoin de l’Histoire, reported being stopped in the street by masked men. They threatened to come to his house “very soon,” to take him away, warning him to be careful about his publications.

The statement specifically asked the junta government to safeguard the safety of local and international journalists; lift the indefinite suspension of RFI and France 24; end verbal attacks and threats against journalists, including by CNSP members, and to publicly condemn such attacks when they occur; and investigate to identify and prosecute the perpetrators, whoever they may be.

The signatory organisations and journalists referred specifically to Niger’s cyber-crime law some of whose provisions “pose the risk of unwarranted repression of journalists.”

“We call on the CNSP to commit publicly to not invoke against journalists, because of their journalistic work, laws on treason, terrorism and state security,” the statement said.

The signatories emphasised that their appeal is also directed to other States in the Sahel controlled by the military.

Read the full statement here.

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