Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Niger
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1998|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1997 - Niger, February 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c5654330.html [accessed 7 March 2015]|
Like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Niger launched democratic reforms in the 1990s after the collapse of communist rule in the Soviet Union. But they proved to be short-lived when a military coup in January 1996 led by Col. Ibrahim Ba'are Mainassara ousted democratically elected president Mahamane Ousmane. Although presidential elections six months later were widely considered to be fraudulent, Mainassara remained as head of state, despite opposition protests. This year produced a wave of arbitrary arrests, systematic intimidation, and unfair trials, in addition to the June 27 passage of a harsh and repressive press law.
The law established obligatory licensing of journalists and made defamation and insulting the president criminal offenses-the latter with two-to-five-year sentences and stiff fines of 200,000 to five million CFA (US$340-$8,600). Only journalism school graduates or those who have worked in the profession for five years are eligible for press cards, an accreditation which could easily be rescinded under the new law for any writing construed as a threat to the government.
The control that Niger's media regulatory body, the Upper Communication Council, exercises is so extensive that it threatens pluralism of information. Currently, there are few independent radio stations, and the state still maintains tight control over Africa's most powerful broadcasting tool. When the privately owned Radio Anfani was ransacked and forced off the air in March by uniformed men, state media gave little attention to the event.