Threats and attacks against journalists in Niger since last week’s coup
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is alarmed by the signs of a decline in respect for press freedom in Niger since the military coup on 26 July, with at least three incidents involving threats and violence against local and foreign journalists in the space of four days. The right to report the news must be respected, RSF says.
RSF registered three cases of journalists being threatened or physically attacked and equipment being seized between 27 to 30 July. These incidents took place while journalists were covering demonstrations in support of the new military junta, called the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), and a press conference by members of the former ruling party.
The junta itself, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani, has not as yet said anything about these incidents. But CNSP Support Committee member Boubacar Kimba, speaking on national television at the weekend, called for “western media relaying messages of hatred and intoxication to be suspended until further notice.” No action has so far been taken in response to this disturbing request.
Meanwhile, in a statement made public on 28 July, the board of directors of the House of the Press in Niamey said it was “worried about signs of a desire to threaten press freedom and the safety of journalists.”
The attacks on press freedom that we see emerging in Niger are extremely worrying. It was, until now, the only country in the central Sahel without a military government. We remind the junta that the right to information must be preserved and respected, and we urge it to ensure that no journalist is again targeted by protesters or the security forces at this uncertain time for Niger.
In the latest incident, Anne-Fleur Lespiaut, a reporter for the French international TV news channel TV5 Monde, and Stanislas Poyet, a reporter for the French daily Le Figaro, were covering a march in support of the junta on 30 July when they received repeated verbal threats from demonstrators hostile to the presence of French journalists.
During a press conference on 28 July at the headquarters of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya) – the party led by the newly deposed President Mohamed Bazoum – as yet unidentified individuals attacked crews from two privately-owned Nigerien media outlets, the radio network Anfani and the TV channel Bonferey, damaging a Bonferey camera.
“Our crew found themselves cornered in the room by protesters who had come to break up the event,” Anfani representative Moussa Modi told RSF. “Our journalists and other crews were beaten and insulted before managing to edge their way out and escape.”
RSF deplores the very pernicious actions of the pro-junta groups in Niger, whose methods already seem very similar to the systematic harassment of the media deployed in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali since the military took over in those countries, which RSF analysed in its report “What it’s like to be a journalist in the Sahel.”
In this light, the military takeover in Niger – which the international community has moreover condemned – would seem to pose a danger to journalists and the freedom to report the news.