Abdoulaye Tiémogo, publication director of the satirical weekly Le Canard déchaîné, has been sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment without parole for "defamation and insults". He was arrested on 18 June 2002 following Prime Minister Hama Amadou’s filing of a complaint for "defamation". Reporters Without Borders has called on the government leader to withdraw his complaint so that the journalist is released immediately.
The organisation said it was shocked by the harshness of the verdict. "Not wishing to comment on the facts of the case, Reporters Without Borders nonetheless recalls that a sentence of imprisonment with no parole for ’defamation’ is a serious human rights violation," noted Robert Ménard, the organisation’s secretary-general. Tiémogo’s appeals trial is set for 5 July. The publication director has been arrested three times since October 2001 and has spent almost two months behind bars. On each occasion, a member of the government was behind the legal action that led to his imprisonment.
According to information collected by Reporters Without Borders, on 28 June, Tiémogo was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment with no parole and fined 50,000 CFA francs (approx. 76 euros). He was also ordered to pay the prime minister one million CFA francs (approx. 1,525 euros) in damages and interest, and pay for the publication of retractions in the national press. Amadou had filed a complaint against Tiémogo after the publication of three highly critical articles in the latest issue of Le Canard déchaîné. In particular, the publication director accused Amadou of seeking to bribe the speaker of the National Assembly in order to retain the post of prime minister. Tiémogo was arrested by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department on 18 June. He was transferred to Niamey’s civilian prison on 28 June.
Just over one month ago, Tiémogo was jailed for two weeks after Amadou filed another complaint. He was placed in police custody on 17 May, one week after hosting a debate on the private radio station Tambara FM. During the debate, Sanoussi Jackou, president of the Parti Nigérien pour l’autogestion (PNA), a small opposition party, accused the prime minister of ethnic and regional discrimination in the appointment of high state officials.
On 19 October 2001, the Niamey First Instance Tribunal sentenced Tiémogo to six months’ imprisonment for "defamation". Agriculture Minister Wassalké Boukari had filed a complaint against "Le Canard Déchaîné" following its publication of an article alleging that he had embezzled 200 million CFA francs (approx. 305,000 euros) from a gold-mining area in the west of the country. The minister withdrew his complaint on 7 December, at the start of the appeals trial, and the journalist was subsequently released.