afrol News, 7 August - A state of alert imposed in Niger on Monday could threaten freedom of expression, according to the international media watchdog, Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF). The group is urging President Mamadou Tandja to repeal the decree through which he instituted the measure.
The Paris-based watchdogs today voiced their "concern about the threat to freedom of expression posed by a state of alert" which President Tandja decreed on Monday, following a mutiny by soldiers in garrisons in the Diffa Region, south-east in the country, some 1,500 km away from the capital, Niamey.
- We ask you not to use the state of alert as a pretext for muzzling the independent news media, which would represent a serious regression in the democratic process, RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Tandja. "We remind you that press freedom is guaranteed under Niger's constitution."
Among other things, the presidential decree bans "the dissemination by any news media of reports or allegations liable to cast doubt on national defence operations." The ample definitions in the decree could easily be abused to silence the press, it is feared in Niamey.
Any violation of the measures in the presidential decree would result in the suspension or closure of the news media and the printing press that produces it, together with confiscation of equipment, RSF had been informed from Niger. "Any person contributing to the dissemination or publication of such reports is also liable to be punished."
Journalists had allegedly received threats from the police and the Minister of Communications, RSF warned. The media watchdog put this in connection with earlier attacks on the freedom of expression by the regime of President Tandja. "Prior to this decree, journalist Abdoulaye Tiémogo, editor of the satirical weekly 'Le Canard Déchaîné', was sentenced on 28 June to eight months in prison for 'libel and insults'."