Reporters Without Borders today voiced its concern about the threat to freedom of expression posed by a state of alert which President Mamadou Tandja decreed on 5 August 2002 following a mutiny by soldiers in garrisons in the far east of the country.
"We ask you not to use the state of alert as a pretext for muzzling the independent news media, which would represent a serious regression in the democratic process", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to President Tandja, requesting the decree’s repeal. "We remind you that press freedom is guaranteed under Niger’s constitution", the letter said.
Under the decree, "the dissemination by any news media of reports or allegations liable to cast doubt on national defence operations is forbidden". Any violation of these measures will result in the suspension or closure of the news media and the printing press that produces it, together with confiscation of equipment. Any person contributing to the dissemination or publication of such reports is also liable to be punished. Journalists have allegedly received threats from the police and the Minister of Communications.
Prior to this decree, journalist Abdoulaye Tiémogo, editor of the satirical weekly Le Canard Déchaîné, was sentenced on June 28 to eight months in prison for "libel and insults".