Niger : RSF denounces the secret detention of journalist Samira Sabou
Samira Sabou's relatives still have no news of the journalist, who was arrested at her home more than 3 days ago by persons claiming to be members of the police force. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this secret detention and calls on the authorities, who have been silent until now, to shed full light on this case immediately.
Where is Samira Sabou? The family of freelance journalist and blogger Samira Sabou have had no news of her ever since she was taken from her home by men in civilian dress on 30 September, and the authorities have so far said nothing about the case.
“One of the abductors showed me his police membership card but he refused to give his name,” said Sabou’s husband, Abdoulkader Nouhou Algachimi, who was present when she was arrested.
The day before her arrest, Sabou – who heads the Association of Bloggers for Active Citizenship (ABCA) – posted a confidential defence ministry document without any comment on her Facebook page, on which she has more than 290,000 followers.
The document, which listed the names of military officers who were about to be transferred, had been “shared within restricted defence and security forces circles.” according to her lawyer, Ould Salem Saïd. In the political and military tension currently prevailing in Niger, the military government may have regarded its disclosure as a possible threat to troop security.
On the evening of 30 September, Saïd tried to obtain information at the headquarters of the General Directorate for Documentation and External Security (DGDSE), an intelligence agency located within the presidential compound, but was denied entry. ABCA members who went there the next day were also denied entry by the presidential guard.
Some of Sabou’s colleagues went to the judicial police, who denied any involvement in her disappearance. The Ministry of Communication, Posts and Digital Economy and the spokesman of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), as the military junta is officially called, did not respond to RSF’s requests for information.
Two months after the coup d'état in Niger, this renowned journalist’s arrest by persons in civilian dress identifying themselves as police officers is very worrying. We ask those now in charge in Niger to publicly address this matter. It is unacceptable that a journalist should be deprived of their freedom with absolutely no information being provided to their loved ones. We demand her release.
Sabou is well known for criticising the authorities in her articles and has often been threatened. Since the beginning of September, she has been the target of a major smear campaign on social media, one orchestrated above all by the – unidentified – administrators of Galadima Flash, a Facebook opinion page about regional news that has 19,000 followers. “We have a thousand ways to make your life difficult” and “Prepare your coffin” have been among the aggressive comments posted on this Facebook page.
In an interview with RSF a few days before her arrest, a worried Sabou said she had filed several complaints against persons unknown a few weeks ago but no one had been identified or questioned.
Annoying the authorities
Sabou, who also manages the Mides-Niger news website, has often been targeted by the authorities in connection with her reporting. On 3 January 2022, under the recently ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, she was given a one-year suspended prison sentence for publishing a report by the Geneva-based Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) in May 2021 that described Niger as a “nerve centre” of regional hashish trafficking and said members of Niger’s political and military elite had close links with the traffickers.
She spent more than a month in prison in June and July 2020 as a result of a defamation suit by Sani Issoufou Mahamadou, then President Mahamadou Issoufou’s son and, at the same time, a presidential adviser. He sued her over a Facebook post in which she linked him to a case of alleged overbilling by the defence ministry.