• Press Release

Niger: Press Freedom in Jeopardy as Journalists Working on Conflict Intimidated and Arrested

May 3, 2024

Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images

Press freedom in Niger is in jeopardy as transitional authorities intimidate and arbitrarily arrest journalists reporting on the country’s conflict and security-related issues, said Amnesty International today. 

Since the July 26, 2023 coup, in which the country’s Presidential Guard commander Abdourahamane Tchiani detained President Mohamed Bazoum and was proclaimed President of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (Conseil National pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrie, CNSP), which is leading the transition, press freedom has been curtailed and journalists are self censoring amid fear of intimidation and reprisals. 

“This disregard for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom and the work of journalists comes at a time when people need accurate information about the conflict affecting them and the transitional authorities’ response to it. We call on the Nigerien authorities to unconditionally release journalists arrested and detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression or for dealing with sensitive information of public interest, and to ensure that journalists can carry out their work without fear of harassment, intimidation, arrest or detention,” said Samira Daoud, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

On April 24, 2024, the editor of the L’Enquêteur newspaper, Soumana Maiga, was arrested after his paper published a story about the alleged installation of listening equipment by Russian agents on official state buildings. He is being detained on a charge of “infringement of national defence.” If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.

Days earlier on April 13, 2024, Ousmane Toudou, journalist and former communications advisor to the ousted president was also arrested. In the days following the July 2023 coup, Ousmane Toudou called on all democrats to oppose the military takeover through a widely shared social media post. Since his arrest by the security forces, Ousmane Toudou has still not been presented to a judge to be heard, even with the expiration of the legal 4-day custody period. He is to be tried before a military court in contradiction with international human rights law which requires military courts to only try military offences.

“We Are Paying More Attention to Our Writings to Preserve Ourselves”

The Hausa language BBC international radio correspondent Tchima Illa Issoufou was threatened and accused of trying to “destabilise Niger” by reporting on the security situation in the Tillabéri region in western Niger, which has been particularly affected by the conflict. She is currently wanted by security forces and was targeted by supporters of the transitional authorities on social media, who accused her of being under “foreign influence”. Her radio broadcast was followed by the arrest of civil society actor Ali Tera, who had been interviewed by the BBC correspondent. He was arrested on April 26, 2024 and has been remanded in the Niamey civilian prison on April 29. Tchima Illa Issoufou fled Niger to settle in another country.

“The Nigerien context has become very difficult. The principles of press freedom are under attack by the new authorities and several colleagues and I are paying more attention to our writings to preserve us,” said the director of a media outlet in Niger, who spoke to Amnesty International on the condition of anonymity. 

In January 2024, the Maison de la Presse, an association that brings together several private and public media organizations in Niger, was suspended by the transitional authorities and replaced by an ad hoc committee headed by the Secretary General of the Ministry of the Interior. 

“The rights to freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom of the press are guaranteed by national law and international human rights treaties such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Niger is a state party. Transitional authorities must effectively implement their legal obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the human rights of everyone in the country,” said Samira Daoud.

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