Saturday, September 26, 2009
Nigerien editor charged with criminal libel in Niger, says CPJ
New York, US - A newspaper editor in police custody in Niger since Sunday was charged with criminal libel on Wednesday in connection with a story which accused a top government official of involvement in a corruption scandal, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported, quoting local journalists and news reports.
Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh of the private weekly Le Témoin was being held at the central prison in the capital, Niamey, pending trial, CPJ quoted the paper's editor -in-chief, Amadou Tiémogo, as saying.
A story in the 14 September edition of Le TÃ©moin alleged that former Niger Communications Minister, Mohamed Ben Omar, was the subject of a criminal investigation triggered by the findings of a parliamentary inquiry last year, according to Tiémogo.
The inquiry revealed the embezzlement of more than 2 billion CFA francs (about US$ 4.5 million) in the national telecom company, SONITEL, and led to the arrests of executives, according to news reports.
Police summoned Gaoh on Sunday morning after Omar filed a complaint, the reports said.
'Gaoh is the second journalist held behind bars in Niger as the government continues criminal prosecution of journalists who report on corruption,' CPJ Afric a Programme Coordinator, Tom Rhodes, said.
'Gaoh should be released and the charges dropped immediately,' Rhodes warned.
Gaoh is the second journalist imprisoned in Niger after Abdoulaye TiÃ©mogo of weekly Le Canard Déchaîné and CPJ research shows that criminal libel allegations hang over at least three other Nigerien journalists -- Laoual Sallaou Ismael of La Roue de l'Histoire, Ali Soumana of Le Courrier, and Abibou Garba of the private media group, Dounia.
A constitutional amendment passed in August eliminates presidential term limits, allowing President Mamadou Tanjda to seek indefinite re-election. It also allows Tanjda to tighten his grip on the press in Niger by giving him the power to name most members to the country's media regulatory agency.
New York - 25/09/2009
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