Despite an encouraging decrease in the number of press freedom violations, the regional context marked by efforts to combat terrorism still has a significant impact both on journalists’ safety and the population's access to information.
After the state’s monopoly on the media was lifted in 1991, Niger’s media landscape was able to flourish, giving the capital, Niamey, its first independent weeklies, including Haské, Le Républicain and Le Démocrate. The first privately owned radio station (R&M) and first privately owned TV channel (RTT) were created in 1994 and 2000, respectively. In 2022,
Niger had 67 privately owned radio stations, 198 community or association radio stations, 15 privately owned TV channels and 16 news websites, of which Libération, Tamtaminfo and NigerDiaspora are among the most popular.
Independently reported news and information is non-existent on state TV and radio and rare on privately owned TV channels. There is a great deal of governmental interference in editorial decisions. The authorities favour certain media outlets based on their political views, and, even outside electoral campaigns, they demand airtime. Investigative journalism is not welcome. Moussa Aksar, the publisher of the newspaper L'Événement, has repeatedly been prosecuted and convicted in connection with his investigative reporting on corruption and financial embezzlement involving senior political and military officials.
The adoption of a press law in 2010 that abolished prison sentences for press offences was a major step forward for the protection of journalists. But this more protective law is often circumvented, and journalists are still arrested, and sometimes given prison sentences in connection with their investigative reporting on corruption. In 2022, the authorities agreed to stop prosecuting journalists on charges of defamation, insult, and offence under the 2019 cybercrime law, which had until then often been used to silence online journalists, with the threat of heavy fines and jail sentences.
The economic environment favours the state media, which benefit from the state’s support, while the privately owned media are in financial trouble. A lack of advertising, high printing costs and the development of social media threaten the survival of newspapers and many of them have had to shut down. Privately owned radio stations are not immune to these weaknesses, and only TV channels manage to take advantage of the advertising market. This financial precariousness also affects journalists, exposing them to corruption.
Niger’s Muslim and traditional society finds it hard to accept debates in the media about Islam and societal issues such as sexuality, access to contraceptives, and adultery. Self-censorship on these subjects is systematic. Access to information about terrorism and migrants is also very difficult.
Attacks and threats against journalists are not uncommon, especially during street protests. Opposition youths burned down the home of Radio France Internationale correspondent Moussa Kaka in 2021. Journalists are sometimes arrested arbitrarily as an intimidation tactic. Journalists’ sources are poorly protected and, during arrests, the police systematically pressure journalists to reveal their sources. Niger nonetheless played a key role in obtaining the release in 2023 of Olivier Dubois, a French reporter held hostage for nearly two years in neighbouring Mali.