Niger frees journalist but expels him to Mali
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns TV presenter Baba Alpha’s immediate deportation yesterday on release from prison in Niamey, the capital of Niger. RSF regards his expulsion to neighbouring Mali after serving a one-year jail sentence as "a second sentence.”
As Alpha was about to be freed, the prison authorities showed the journalist a copy of a decree signed by the interior minister ordering his immediate and definitive expulsion to Mali as a “threat to internal state security.” He was then driven to Labézanga, the nearest Malian border town, without being given time to see his family.
A news presenter for a Niamey TV channel, Alpha is well known for being critical of Niger’s government. Following his arrest in April 2017, he was initially sentenced to two years in prison and the withdrawal of all civil and political rights for ten years on a charge of forging and using forged identity documents. But an appeal court reduced his sentence on 12 March to two years in prison, the second of them suspended.
“This journalist’s expulsion to a country in which he has never lived is a new sentence,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “Baba Alpha has already spent a year in prison because of his criticism of the government. And now he is in a foreign country without any identity documents.”
When reached by RSF in Mali, Alpha said, “I am relieved to be free” but “concerned about my future.” Alpha was born in Niger and has lived there all his life.
Amid a decline in security, respect for media freedom has fallen sharply in recent years in Niger, which is ranked 51st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.