Reporters Without Borders today deplored the jailing for six months on 7 November of Mamane Abou, editor of the independent weekly paper Le Républicain, for supposedly libelling the country’s finance minister.
"This conviction makes no sense, as he was simply doing his job," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "Nothing justifies such a heavy sentence either. Legal procedures were also not properly followed because he was tried in his absence while he was in Niamey prison."
"His lawyers were not even told of the trial, which is evidently a political matter. The authorities sentenced him quietly without telling anyone. Niger claims to be a democracy that respects the rule of law but this is a very alarming violation of freedom of expression," Ménard said, calling for the journalist’s release.
Abou was also fined 300,000 CFA francs (450 euros) and ordered to pay 10 million CFA francs (€15,200) in libel damages. One of his lawyers, Oumarou Soulé, told Reporters Without Borders he was shocked by the failure to follow legal procedure and said he would immediately appeal again the sentence.
Abou has been held in Niamey prison since 5 November accused of publishing confidential finance ministry documents showing that the finance minister had embezzled several billion CFA francs (more than €1.5 million).