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Niger3 April 2009

In latest judicial harassment of broadcasting group, director-general charged with “false news”

Reporters Without Borders condemns the arrest of Abibou Garba, the director-general of the Dounia radio and TV group, on 1 April in connection with a debate broadcast by Dounia TV in which an NGO activist criticised French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s recent visit to Niamey.

“The Dounia group is the victim of repeated harassment by the judicial authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It should not be held responsible for what members of the public say on the air. We urge the authorities to withdraw the charges against Garba.”

Garba was brought before the public prosecutor yesterday afternoon together with Elhadj Idi Abdou, a teacher and member of the Alternative Citizen Space NGO, who was arrested on 31 March because of the comments he had made during the previous day’s “Circle of Colleagues” programme on Dounia TV. Both had been held at the headquarters of the criminal investigation department since their arrest.

After charging them with “disseminating false news,” the prosecutor ordered their conditional release pending trial on a date still to be determined.

During the TV programme, Abdou referred dismissively to the Sarkozy visit as nothing more than a “technical stopover” with the aim of organising the “looting of Niger’s resources.” The topics with the French president reportedly discussed with the Niger authorities reportedly included uranium mining.

Dounia is meanwhile the target of defamation lawsuit brought by parliamentarians in connection with the critical comments a politician made during a Dounia TV programme. The station’s representatives were summoned to appear in court on 31 March but the hearing was postponed until 14 April.

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