The publisher of the weekly Le Courrier, Ali Soumana has been held for the past week for publishing the public prosecutor’s summing-up in a five-year-old legal dispute between Niger and a Lebanese company called Africard.
He was originally charged with violating the confidentiality of a judicial investigation but the charge was changed on 3 July, after he had spent four days in police custody and the police had carried out a search of his home.
He is now in prison awaiting trial on a charge of obtaining a judicial document by fraudulent means, a crime punishable by up to five years in jail under article 194 of the Penal Code.
Press law violation
Niger’s 2010 press law prohibits jail sentences for press offences, which are punishable only by fines. Although Soumana acted as a journalist, the new charge allows the judicial authorities to circumvent the press law and prosecute him under the penal code, whose punishments are much more severe.
Niger is ranked 61st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index, nine places lower than in 2016.