18 September 2006

Niger: Third Journalist Sentenced to Prison for Publishing 'False Information'

press release

New York — A court in Niger's capital, Niamey, today sentenced journalist Salif Dago to six months in prison for publishing "false information," according to local sources contacted by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Dago, a reporter for the private newspaper L'Enquêteur, is the third journalist to be sentenced to jail for his work in less than a month.

Dago was arrested on August 28 and kept in police cells before being charged and transferred to prison four days later. The charge relates to an August 14 story headlined "Black mass in Niamey cemetery," which recounted an alleged macabre ritual involving the killing of a baby by an unidentified man.

Dago's lawyer, Ousmane Ben Kafougou, said he was appealing the sentence on grounds that judicial procedures had not been respected "since the beginning of this case." He said his client had also been fined 100,000 CFA francs (US$193) and given a six-month suspended term on top of the prison time. Idrissa Soumana Maga, director of l'Enquêteur, confirmed the sentence and the appeal.

"Whatever the quality of this particular story, Niger authorities have no justification for jailing journalists for what they write," CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. "These broad laws have been used to suppress reporting on government activities."

On September 1, two other journalists, Maman Abou and Oumarou Keita, were sentenced to 18 months in jail apiece for defaming the government and publishing false information. For more information, see CPJ's September 5 alert: http://www.cpj.org/news/2006/africa/niger05sept06na.html

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