RSF urges Niger to enforce media freedom laws
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was able to meet with Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and communication minister Sani Hadiza Koubra Abdoulaye during a visit to Niger last week, using the meeting to urge respect for legislation that protects media freedom.
The head of RSF’s Africa desk, Clea Kahn-Sriber, visited Niger from 27 November to 30 November at the invitation of the House of the Press in Niamey for Niger’s National Press Freedom Day on 30 November, participating in a panel on media responsibility and giving a presentation on the World Press Freedom Index.
When Kahn-Sriber met the prime minister and communication minister, they objected to Niger’s current ranking in the Index. Niger staged a spectacular 75-place jump (from 104th to 29th) in 2011, at the start of Issoufou Mahamadou’s presidency, but has fallen steadily since then, and is now ranked 61st out of 180 countries.
The prime minister assured RSF that his government was committed to media freedom and was working to improve the situation, but he said the measures adopted were taking time to have an effect.
In RSF’s view, Niger’s fall in the Index is due above all to the fact that, although progressive, its laws are poorly or only partially implemented. Journalists continue to be imprisoned for media offences and attacks on media personnel go unpunished.
“Niger is teeming with media outlets but their freedom is limited by their economic fragility, undue political influence on their staff and circumvention of media laws by the authorities,” Kahn-Sriber said.
“At the same time, some journalists need to make an effort to respect journalistic rules on covering the news. The frequent mutual mistrust between the authorities and the media undermines freedom of the press, which should above all serve the country’s population.”
RSF made several recommendations to Niger’s government, above all stressing the need to implement certain laws including the 2010 Law on Access to Information, so that journalists can work with verified official information.
RSF asked the communication minister to quickly examine draft laws and opinions submitted by the High Council for Communication. In RSF’s view, the priorities are those on the status of the media, which would enable them to provide a real public service, and on access to advertising, which would allow the privately-owned media to improve their financial situation.