Reporters Without Borders deplores the charge of “breach of national security” that was brought yesterday against two French TV journalists employed by Camicas Productions, reporter Thomas Dandois and cameraman Pierre Creisson, who were arrested on 17 December while on assignment for the Franco-German TV station Arte.
“The charge of breach of national security is extremely serious and seems to be out of all proportion to what these two journalists are alleged to have done,” the press freedom organisation said. “We regret that this charge has been brought against them and that the case is to be taken before the courts. We hope an accord can be reached allowing them to be released.”
Their lawyer, Moussa Coulibaly, told Reporters Without Borders they were taken yesterday before an investigating judge, who informed them they were being charged with breach of national security at the state prosecutor’s request. The charge carries a possible death penalty. The judge then ordered them placed in pretrial detention and they were taken to Kollo prison camp, 20 km outside Niamey. Their Nigerien driver, Al Hassane Abdourahmann, has been charged with complicity in a breach of national security.
The journalists and their driver were arrested for going to northern Niger to do a report on the Tuareg rebels of the Nigerien People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ). They had a visa and permission to do a report on bird flu. There are frequent clashes between government forces and Tuareg rebels in the north, which has been strictly banned to journalists since a state of alert giving extensive powers to the military was declared there in August.
Communication minister and government spokesman Mohamed Ben Omar said they were arrested at Koré-Maïroua (200 km south of Niamey), while on their way back to the capital. He also said they had been “under surveillance since the outset.”
Thomas Dandois (left) and Pierre Creisson (right) - Photo DR