Newspaper publisher’s arrest in Niger sends new alarm signal on press freedom in Sahel

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of a newspaper publisher who was arrested at his office in Niamey, Niger’s capital, on 25 April and is being held on a charge of “endangering national defence,” which carries a possible ten-year prison sentence.

The arbitrary detention of Soumana Idrissa Maïga, the publisher of the L’Enquêteur daily newspaper, poses a new threat to press freedom in Niger, says RSF, calling for the withdrawal of the charges against him.

Four days after his arrest by plainclothes police at the newspaper, Maïga was transferred to Niamey’s main prison on 29 April pending investigation. No trial date has so far been set. “The press law has been completely sidelined,” said Maïga’s lawyer, Ousmane Ben Kafougou.

In its 25 April issue, his newspaper raised questions about the consequences of the alleged installation by Russian agents of listening devices in government buildings, which the French newspaper Le Figaro reported.

“By jailing Idrissa Soumana Maïga, a journalist who simply raised a legitimate concern, Niger’s authorities are sending a terrible warning to all of his colleagues – that covering certain subjects in the public interest can lead to prosecution and the possibility of lengthy imprisonment although press offences have been decriminalised. This is liable to push the media to censor themselves. We call for this journalist’s immediate release and the withdrawal of all charges against him.”

Sadibou Marong
Director of RSF’s Sub-Saharan African bureau

The press freedom in Niger has shrunk considerably since the military seized power in a coup in July 2023. Freelance journalist Samira Sabou was held incommunicado for more than a week after plainclothesmen arrested her at her home on 30 September. Journalists are censoring themselves as a result of a climate of fear.

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