Niger: Journalist arrested in response to lawsuit by president’s son
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the immediate release of Samira Sabou, an influential journalist and blogger who was arrested in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on 10 June in response to a defamation suit by Sani Issoufou Mahamadou, a presidential adviser and son of the country’s president. RSF regards her arrest as illegal.
Samira Sabou, who runs the Mides-Niger website and often criticizes the government on Facebook, where she has more than 38,000 followers, is being sued by the president’s son over a Facebook post on 26 May in which she linked him to a case of alleged overbilling by the defence ministry.
Article 67 of Niger’s 2010 press law specifically prohibits imprisonment for press offences but the 2019 cyber-crime law provides for sentences of between six months and three years in prison for online defamation. “We quickly realized that this law was being used to suppress freedom of expression and that journalists would not escape it,” Sabou’s lawyer, Ahmed Mamane, said when reached by RSF.
“Without taking a position on the substance of this case, we insist that no journalist should be detained when being prosecuted in connection with what is clearly their professional activity,” said Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk. “This arrest constitutes a very dangerous retrograde step and eviscerates the 2010 press law, whose ban on preventive detention of journalists constituted a major advance. We urge Niger’s authorities not to undermine all the efforts of recent years to promote press freedom. This journalist must be released.”
Baba Alpha, a journalist who was often outspoken in his criticism of the government, was arrested on a charge of forging and using forged identity documents in 2017 and was sentenced to 30 months in prison and the withdrawal of all civil and political rights for ten years. He was released after a year but was denied identity documents and was immediately deported.
Niger is ranked 57th out of 180 countries and territories in RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.