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Niger13 March 2008

Government suspends RFI over day of solidarity with imprisoned correspondent, but leaves problem unresolved

Reporters Without Borders regrets yesterday’s decision by the Higher Council for Communication (CSC) to suspend local FM retransmission of the French public radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI) for three months for “discrediting” Niger’s institutions by holding a day of solidarity with its imprisoned correspondent, Moussa Kaka, on 10 March.

“Instead of dealing with problem, the government has again targeted the messenger who refers to it,” the press freedom organisation said. “It responds to persuasive attempts with inflexibility, and to international campaigns with repression. Its rigidity in the face of the need to release Kaka is leading nowhere. Depriving the public of RFI does not solve the problem. The government needs to understand that it is going down the wrong road and is just making things worse.”

CSC president Daouda Diallo yesterday announced that all of RFI’s FM broadcast permits were suspended for three months for two reasons. One was “discrediting the institutions of the republic during broadcasts on 10 March dedicated to Moussa Kaka’s arrest” and the other was “systematically excluding calls from Niamey during the broadcast.”

The CSC did not elaborate on the second reason, but Agence France-Presse said the ministers of foreign affairs and communications had tried in vain to express their views during the discussions about Kaka’s arrest that were broadcast by RFI.

RFI was last suspended in Niger on 19 July 2007, when the CSC stopped its FM broadcasts for a month for “biased and partisan coverage” of a rebellion in the north of the country by the Tuaregs of the Niger People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ).

The move was seen at the time as a warning to Kaka, the Niger correspondent of both RFI and Reporters Without Borders. He was arrested two months later, on 20 September, on a charge of “complicity in an attack on state authority.”

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