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Niger / France20 May 2008

Detained journalist’s wife gives news conference in Paris, asks French government to help get him freed

The wife of Moussa Kaka, the Niger correspondent of Reporters Without Borders and Radio France Internationale (RFI), today urged the French government to support demands for his release. Kaka, who also has his own Niamey-based radio station, Radio Saraounia, has been detained in Niamey for the past 243 days for talking to a rebel leader by phone.

“I appeal to the French authorities to help us get Moussa freed as soon as possible, because Moussa did nothing, and we all know that,” Jamila Souley Kaka said at a news conference at Reporters Without Borders headquarters in Paris.

“It is because Moussa exposed Niger’s problems that the authorities are persecuting him,” she said, condemning a state media campaign to denigrate him that is being orchestrated by the government. Jamila Kaka has been running Radio Saraounia ever since her husband’s arrest on 20 September 2007 on charges of “complicity in a conspiracy against state authority.”

Asked about his conditions of detention, she said : “He is doing his best to cope but it is not easy to live in a prison in Africa. He is being held in a 12-square-metre cell with 13 other people.”

Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said there was no doubt about Kaka’s innocence : “Without violating the judicial investigation’s confidentiality, we can say that there is nothing in the case file that enables the prosecution to claim that Moussa Kaka was doing anything other than his job. He is completely innocent.”

Ménard also urged the French authorities to act : “It would send a message to Niger if they were to receive Jamila in Paris (...) Just as the French authorities took action to get Thomas Dandois and Pierre Creisson freed, an effort is needed for Moussa Kaka’s release.” French journalists Dandois and Creisson were held for a month in Niamey after visiting the northern part of Niger where the rebels are active.

RFI journalist Juliette Rengeval, the president of the Moussa Kaka Support Committee, said Kaka’s arbitrary detention was sending a very bad signal to journalists throughout Africa, who are all afraid.

The Niger authorities claim that Kaka’s phone calls with one of the leaders of the Niger People’s Movement for Justice (MNJ), a rebel group based in the north, are evidence of “complicity” in the rebellion. The charge that has been brought against him carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

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