The regime was shaken at the start of August 2002 by an army mutiny in the southeast. Concerned at the way this could be reported in the press, the authorities declared a state of alert, restricted press freedom and detained several journalists who cover the area, and a human rights activist who called for an international enquiry.
Despite reiterating their commitment to press freedom, government members were often the source of complaints brought against journalists. At least one journalist every year is sentenced to a long prison term for a press offence. Fearing this could become more frequent, Aboubacar Kio Koudizé of a press freedom organisation called the National Communication Watch (ONC) appealed in January for press offences to be decriminalized.
Five journalists imprisoned
At least one journalist was still in prison in Niger at the end of 2002.
Abdoulaye Tiémogo, editor of the Canard déchaîné, was detained by judicial police in Niamey on 18 June because Prime Minister Hama Amadou felt he had been "libelled and insulted" in three very critical reports in the newspaper’s latest issue. Tiémogo had accused Amadou of trying to bribe the national assembly president in order to keep his post as prime minister. He was transferred to Niamey prison on 28 June and was sentenced to eight months in prison and a small fine. He was also ordered to pay 1 million CFA francs (about 1,500 euros) in damages to the prime minister and pay for a retraction to be published in all of Niger’s media. The sentence was upheld by the Niamey appeal court on 11 November.
Two journalists and a newspaper owner were placed in custody in Kollo prison (in the southwest) on 21 May. One was Abarad Mouddour Zakara, editor of the privately-owned weekly La Roue de l’histoire, who had been detained on 18 May as a result of a complaint by trade minister Seïni Oumarou. The other two were Sanoussi Jackou, the newspaper’s owner (and the leader of a small opposition party) and Canard déchainé editor Abdoulaye Tiémogo. They had been detained on 17 May following a debate hosted by Tiémogo the week before on privately-owned radio Tambara FM in which Jackou accused the prime minister of practising ethnic and regional discrimination in the appointment of senior officials. On 24 May, 28 opposition parliamentarians boycotted the national assembly for 24 hours in protest against the "arbitrary" imprisonment of their fellow opposition politician. All three were released on 19 May. Zakara and Jackou received four-month suspended prison sentences and were fined 100,000 CFA francs (153 euros). Ibrahim Manzo, a journalist with the Canard déchaîné, and Cissé Omar Amadou, the newspaper’s commercial director, were arrested and taken to the headquarters of the judicial police in Niamey on 20 November because of an article suggesting that the army chief of staff may have ordered the arrest of the Mahamadou Issoufou, one of the main opposition leaders. They were released four days later, on the evening of 24 November. No charges were pressed.
Two journalists arrested
Moussa Kaka, correspondent of Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Reporters Without Borders and director of the privately-owned Radio Saraounia, was detained on 23 August 2002 and taken to the gendarmerie high command in Niamey. The authorities gave no explanation for his arrest. He was finally released during the night. While held, he was interrogated for about 10 hours about a mutiny by soldiers in the southeastern town of Diffa at the start of August, and about his sources.
Boulama Ligari, a journalist with privately-owned Radio Anfani, was detained on 27 August and held in the gendarmerie in Diffa for "broadcasting false news" in his reports about the local mutiny. Gendarmes were also posted outside the station’s offices in Diffa but did not prevent broadcasts from continuing. After being told that no charges would be pressed against him, Ligari was finally released on 29 August.
Seven journalists physically attacked
A seven-member TV crew with the Italian state-owned broadcaster RAI was attacked and robbed on 18 February 2002 by bandits armed with Kalashnikovs who held them for about 15 hours before abandoning them in the desert. The crew had come to make a documentary for a science programme.
Pressure and obstruction
Alzouma Zakari, editor of the weekly L’Opinion, was given a suspended sentence of six months in prison on 17 July 2002 as a result of a libel suit brought by the head of the national power company.
President Mamadou Tanja decreed a state of alert on 5 August because of the mutiny in garrisons in the southeastern Diffa region, banning news media from carrying "reports or allegations likely to jeopardise national defence operations" under pain of closure, including closure of the printing works in the case of a newspaper, and confiscation of equipment. Niger’s journalists condemned the decree and the ensuing threats made against some of them by the police or the communications minister. Petitioned by opposition parliamentarians, the constitutional court on 6 September ruled that the two decrees issued by the president were unconstitutional and therefore null and void. No appeal was possible against the court’s ruling.