Boussada Ben Ali, the managing editor of the independent weekly L'Action, was today sentenced to three months in prison and fined 50,000 CFA francs (about 76 euros) for “publishing false information”. The journalist immediately appealed against the sentence but will remain in custody at Niamey prison where he has been since 26 January while awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
The case against Boussada Ben Ali was brought by the Economy and finance minister in connection with an article about a trade deal between Niger and China.
02.02.2009 - Newspaper editor tried, verdict due on 6 February
Boussada Ben Ali, the managing editor of the independent weekly L'Action, was tried this morning in Niamey on a charge of “publishing false information.” The prosecutor requested a six-month jail sentence and a fine of 40,000 CFA francs (60 euros) without indicating whether he thought the sentence should be suspended. The court said it would issue its verdict on 6 February.
The trial is the result of a complaint by the finance minister over an article about a trade deal between Niger and China. Ben Ali has been detained since 23 January.
28.01.2009 - Newspaper editor still held pending trial
Boussada Ben Ali, the managing editor of the independent weekly L'Action, was transferred to Niamey prison on 26 January after 72 hours in police custody and was brought yesterday before a prosecutor who postponed a hearing in his case on the grounds that he needed to verify the outcome of the appeal in a 2007 case involving him and a former government minister.
The current case is the result of a complaint by the finance minister accusing Ben Ali of “publishing false information” in an article about a trade deal between Niger and China. Ben Ali is to remain in detention until the trial.
In the 2007 case, Ben Ali appealed against the two-month suspended prison he received as a result of a libel suit by government minister Rhissa Ag Boula over an article about Boula's alleged cooperation with the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ), a Tuareg rebel group. Boula's statements a year later about his support for the MNJ and his readiness to take up arms proved that Ben Ali was right.
25.01.2009 - Newspaper editor held for allegedly libelling finance minister
Reporters Without Borders is worried by the continuing detention of Boussada Ben Ali, the managing editor of the independent weekly L'Action, as a result of a complaint by finance minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine accusing him of “publishing a false news report.” Ben Ali was arrested and placed in custody at the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department in Niamey for 48 hours on 23 January. This was extended for another 48 hours today.
“We are disturbed to learn of the extension of the police custody”, Reporters Without Borders said. "We urge the judicial authorities to produce evidence that what Ben Ali published was wrong. If they cannot, he should be released without further delay."
The Association of Niger Independent Press Publishers (ANEPI) said his arrest was prompted by a report in the 13 January issue of his newspaper containing confidential information about a trade deal between Niger and China.
“Ben Ali embarrassed the ministry and that is why he was arrested,” his lawyer, Aamani Yahouza, told Reporters Without Borders. “So far there is no evidence that what he published was wrong,” he added.
Ben Ali was summoned by Higher Council for Communication president Daouda Diallo on the evening of 17 January to view a rebuttal that was broadcast later that evening on the national television news. He was asked to give the minister a public apology but refused.
In Niger, the charge of “publishing a false news report” carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.