The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the government of Niger to release three jailed journalists, including Salif Dago, editor-in-chief of newspaper L’Enquêteur, who was sentenced to a prison term for publishing an article that stated a man sacrificed a baby in a cemetery in order to become rich.
Dago was sentenced on September 15 to a six-month prison term and fined 100.000 Francs CFA (€150) for propagation of false news.
“We can’t understand why this sentence is so heavy,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “We call on the government of Niger to release Salif Dago and the two other journalists who are arbitrarily detained.”
Two weeks earlier, on September 1, Maman Abou and Oumarou Kéïta, editor and editor-in-chief of the independent weekly magazine Le Républicain, were each sentenced to one year imprisonment “for propagation of false news and slandering the Prime Minister.”
The article that prompted these charges included an assessment that Prime Minister Hama Amadou’s foreign policy would focus on relationships with Iran instead of with Western countries.
These detentions follow other recent press freedom violations. On August 4, Prime Minister Amadou threatened during a press conference to withdraw the licences of certain private radio stations, which he accused of trying to instigate a civil war.
On June 21, the private newspaper L’Opinion was banned from appearing on newsstands, following the publication on June 21 of an article considered to be defamatory and injurious to the head of the state and his family. On July 5, the editor of L’Opinion, Zakari Alzouma, was arrested after publishing another weekly magazine called L’Opinions, which took the name of his previous publication and added an “s” at the end.
Last May, Prime Minister Amadou threatened during a press conference to jail journalists.
“This constant danger of imprisonment that journalists face in Niger is due to draconian laws that President Mamadou Tandja promised to withdraw,” the IFJ’s Baglo said. “We call on President Tanja to personally take care of this issue so that the bill on the decriminalization of press laws, which has been awaiting a vote by lawmakers for a year, is put before Parliament to vote on and then passed.
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries