Reporters Without Borders today voiced its concern about the threat
to freedom of expression posed by a state of alert which President
Mamadou Tandja decreed on 5 August 2002 following a mutiny by
soldiers in garrisons in the far east of the country.
"We ask you not to use the state of alert as a pretext for muzzling
the independent news media, which would represent a serious
regression in the democratic process", Reporters Without Borders
secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Tandja,
requesting the decree's repeal. "We remind you that press freedom is
guaranteed under Niger's constitution", the letter said.
Under the decree, "the dissemination by any news media of reports or
allegations liable to cast doubt on national defence operations is
forbidden". Any violation of these measures will result in the
suspension or closure of the news media and the printing press that
produces it, together with confiscation of equipment. Any person
contributing to the dissemination or publication of such reports is
also liable to be punished. Journalists have allegedly received
threats from the police and the Minister of Communications.
Prior to this decree, journalist Abdoulaye Tiémogo, editor of the
satirical weekly Le Canard Déchaîné, was sentenced on June 28 to
eight months in prison for "libel and insults".