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Niger6 October 2003

Police shut down three independent radio stations

Reporters Without Borders strongly protested today at the forcible shutdown by police of three independent radio stations in Niger on 4 October and called on the government to see they were allowed to reopen at once and broadcast freely.

"After cancelling the broadcasting licences of a dozen stations, the authorities have now had the police close three of them - Alternative, Saraounia FM and Bitinkodji FM," said secretary-general Robert Ménard. "This is serious censorship which must be reversed at once."

Police occupied the studios of Alternative in Niamey and forced its journalists to stop working and leave. They then locked the offices and kept the keys. The same thing happened to the other two stations, which are based elsewhere in the country.

The state communications council, the CSC, cancelled the licences of 10 privately-owned stations on 25 September, saying they were improperly issued, but all said they would defy the order and stay on the air.

Ibrahim Souley, editor of the weekly L’Enquêteur, has been in Niamey prison since 16 September. The state prosecutor had complained of an article in issue 169 of the paper accusing the government of contributing to the sudden wealth of local businessman Djibo Zakou. It reported that business people from eastern Niger were angry that Zakou, who comes from the western part of the country, had got "juicy contracts."

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