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Niger6 March 2008

Newspaper editor gets a month in prison for comparing two court decisions

Reporters Without Borders again reiterates its call for the release of Aboubacar Gourouza, the editor of the independent bimonthly L’Eveil Plus, after a Niamey court today sentenced him to a month in prison for allegedly “discrediting” a court decision in an article in his newspaper by comparing the decision with one taken in a similar case.

“Our concern is mounting as the space for free expression contracts in Niger,” the press freedom organisation said. “Editorials commenting on and sometimes comparing court decisions after the event is common practice in democratic countries but in Niger it seems to be regarded as a crime. Gourouza’s conviction is clearly anti-democratic.”

Gourouza was convicted for an article comparing the provisional release of the mayor of the southern city of Maradi, who is accused of embezzlement, with a decision to keep the mayor of Niamey, who is also accused of embezzlement, in prison. The editor was fined 50,000 CFA francs (76 euros) as well as getting a one-month jail term.

Gourouza has been held in Niamey prison ever since his arrest on 27 February. The prosecutor originally requested a three-month sentence and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs. Gourouza was also charged with defamation as a result of a complaint brought by a politician, Mohamed Keita, but Keita withdrew his complaint after the start of the trial.

04.03.08 - Prosecutors request three-month prison sentence for newspaper editor

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Aboubacar Gourouza, the editor of the independent bimonthly L’Eveil Plus, for whom prosecutors requested a three-month prison sentence and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs (76 euros) when he was tried yesterday. The court is expected to issue its verdict on 6 March.

Arrested on 26 February, Gourouza was charged with defamation and contempt of court in connection with two separate complaints when he was brought before a judge on 28 February.

The defamation complaint was withdrawn by Moussa Keita, a politician and former member of the National Movement for Society and Development, at the request of several journalists at the start of yesterday’s trial.

But the prosecution went ahead on the other complaint, about an article in which Keita contrasted two court decisions, one granting a provisional release for the mayor of Maradi, who is accused of embezzlement, and the other keeping the mayor of Niamey, who is also accused of embezzlement, in prison.

28.02.08 - Editor charged and held in custody for defamation and “contempt of justice”

Reporters Without Borders today protested at the arrest two days ago of Aboubacar Gourouza, editor of the independent bi-monthly L’Eveil Plus, by judicial police in Niamey in connection with two articles, one relating to an alleged plot against the former prime minister.

He was brought to court today, after being held by Niamey police, charged with “defamation” and “contempt of justice” and taken to the civil prison in the capital.

“Aboubacar Gourouza is the fifth journalist to be imprisoned since the arrest in September 2007 of Moussa Kaka, correspondent for Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Reporters Without Borders, without referring to numerous other press freedom violations that have been perpetrated”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We are extremely concerned about the dangerous course that Niger has embarked on. We urge the Niger authorities to immediately release our colleague and Moussa Kaka”.

Both articles appeared in the L’Eveil Plus on 29 January 2008. The first, headlined, “The plot and the plotters unmasked”, accused politician Moussa Keita, former activist in the National Movement for a Developing Society-Nassara (MNSD-Nassara), of “orchestrating” a major “conspiracy” to secure charges against former prime minister, Hama Amadou. Keita accused Hama Amadou of complicity in the torching of his own car and the politician had sued him for defamation.

The second article, headlined “the Niamey Urban Community (CUN) case : another plot against the MNSD”, criticised the detention of the president of the CUN, Aboubacar Seydou Ganda, “without any evidence of the truth of the charges against him”.The journalist added that he and “all those implicated in this case and who are still in prison should be given bail while awaiting trial”.

He concluded that there was reason to believe that “this case is not judicial but political”. The public prosecutor brought a case against him for “contempt of justice”.

Gourouza’s trial has been set for 3 March 2008. Moussa Kaka is still being held in prison in Niamey for “complicity in damaging state authority” and faces life imprisonment.

In this country
3 April - Niger
In latest judicial harassment of broadcasting group, director-general charged with “false news”
6 February - Niger
Editor of the weekly L’Action sentenced to three months in prison
18 November - Niger
Two l’Evénement journalists given suspended prison sentences for defamation
12 November - Niger
Newspaper editor freed after being given suspended prison sentence
7 October - Niger
Court orders journalist’s provisional release after more than a year in detention

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