Niger: Another Niger Media Organization Suspended

Authorities Should End Attacks on Press Freedom, Free Expression

The interior minister of Niger's decision this week to suspend the activities of Maison de la Presse (Press House), an independent media organization, is the latest in a series of government actions to crack down on the press and free expression in the West African country.

The minister's January 29 decree also announced the creation of a new management committee for the media organization headed by the Interior Ministry's secretary general. Maison de la Presse is an association that promotes freedom of information in Niger as well as the exchange of ideas and debate among media professionals. The government did not provide any reason for the suspension.

Ibrahim Harouna, head of Maison de la Presse, said the decision epitomizes a trend to weaken and silence journalists and independent media in Niger. "We are going to file a complaint," he told Human Rights Watch. "We have been calling on authorities to protect journalists and ensure freedom of expression, we are not politicians. We should be allowed to simply report the news."

Since the military coup in July 2023, media organizations and journalists in Niger have experienced increased difficulties, including intimidation, threats of violence, and government surveillance.

On August 3, the junta indefinitely suspended international news broadcasters Radio France Internationale (RFI) and France 24. On September 30, government security forces arrested blogger and journalist Samira Sabou and detained her in secret for seven days. On October 11, the authorities charged her with "production and dissemination of data likely to disturb public order" and released her pending trial.

Free expression, freedom of the press, and the right to access information are guaranteed under article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which Niger ratified in 1986. Under the charter's Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa, adopted in 2019, limitations on the exercise of these rights are only permissible if prescribed by law, serve a legitimate aim, and are necessary and proportionate in a democratic society.

As Niger passes six months with an unelected government that has just announced its withdrawal from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, a free press is more vital than ever. Nigerien authorities should immediately reinstate Maison de la Presse and make a commitment to uphold media freedom by ending further attempts to silence journalists and news outlets.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, Senior Sahel Researcher

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