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Niger17 June 2003

Radio Télévision Ténéré journalists threatened and assaulted by students

In a 15 June 2003 letter to Communications Minister Oumarou Sidikou, Reporters Without Borders urged the authorities to launch an investigation and take legal action following the 14 June attack on several journalists from the private broadcaster Radio Télévision Ténéré (RTT) in the capital, Niamey. The organisation also wrote to Niamey University’s student union, condemning the physical assaults, damaging of equipment and threats against RTT journalists by a group of students.

"It is unusual for journalists to be assaulted in this manner in Niger," Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Robert Ménard noted in his letter to Minister Sidikou. "The authorities must respond when journalists are manhandled and their right to inform is threatened. It is the government’s duty to react quickly and to re-establish Radio Télévision Ténéré’s right to inform," he added.

Contacted by telephone by Reporters Without Borders, RTT management representatives explained that journalist Mariama Soumana and cameraran Youssouf Diallo were threatened while preparing a report at Niamey University on 13 June. They had gone to the university to cover the students’ poor living conditions and noticed that some students were selling boxes of sardines that had been stolen from the National Centre of University Charities (Centre National des Oeuvres Universitaires). Certain students then threatened the journalists with retribution if they broadcast images of the scene or otherwise mentioned the students’ illicit activities. Despite the threats, RTT aired the report on 13 June.

The next day, on 14 June, during RTT’s airing of its news bulletin, from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. (local time), a group of about 50 students arrived at the station’s studios and assaulted several journalists and listeners. Radio station director Mallam Yaro and a security guard were hit. An RTT vehicle and another belonging to a private citizen were also vandalised.

Reporters Without Borders called today on Liberian authorities to search for four journalists - Grody Dorbor (editor) of the The Inquirer newspaper, Oscar Dolo, Nyahn Flomo and William Quiwea, local correspondents of the radio station Talking Drum Studio-Liberia - who have been missing for more than two weeks in the central part of the country, where government forces are battling rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Development (LURD) movement.

Expressing his great concern about their fate, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said that "at a time when the population is the victim of widespread attacks by armed rebels, the government must take effective steps to ensure the safety of journalists, who are very valuable for Liberians." He called for a thorough and impartial investigation into the disappearance of the four.

Dorbor and Quiwea went to Zwedru, in the southeastern county of Grand Gedeh. Flomo is correspondent in Ganta, in the east-central region of Nimba. Dolo was in Gbarnga, in the central county of Bong, and had fled to Ganta after fighting broke out. Since LURD attacks on several provincial capitals, the paper and the radio station have not heard from the journalists.



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