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Niger

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Last updated on 03.01.2018 at 10:41

Niger-Overview

Despite constitutional protections for civic space, civil society activists in Niger are subjected to judicial persecution, intimidation and arbitrary arrest, often because of their human rights activities.

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Protest over 2018 budget law: CSO banned and activists arrested

Protest over 2018 budget law: CSO banned and activists arrested

The protesters denounced the law, saying that it is "antisocial" and will lead to higher prices for basic goods and additional new taxes. The protest turned violent as those gathered at Place Toume defied a ban and marched to Place de Concertation in front of the National Assembly.

Peaceful Assembly

On 29th October, Association de défense des droits des Consommateurs, des Technologies, de l’Information, de la Communication et de l’Energie (Association for the Rights of Consumers, Technologies, Information, Communication and Energy - ACTICE), among others, organised a protest in Niamey against the draft 2018 Finance Law, which was adopted by the Council of Ministers on 25th September. The protesters denounced the law, saying that it is "antisocial" and will lead to higher prices for basic goods and additional new taxes. The protest turned violent as some of those gathered at Place Toume defied a ban and marched to Place de Concertation in front of the National Assembly. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters, and some of the protesters threw stones and burned tyres. Minister of Interior Mohamed Bazoum said on public television that 23 police officers were injured and 14 vehicles were destroyed, while he also announced the dissolution of ACTICE, as the organiser of the protest with the authorisation for hold the protest (see section below for additional information). Despite the protest, the draft law was approved by the National Assembly on 26th November. Protesters gathered again in Niamey on 31st December to demonstrate against the 2018 Finance Law, after a call to mobilise from the two main political opposition coalitions. 

On 12th December 2017, thousands of students protested in Niamey to demand payment of their bursary, better living conditions for students on campus as well as justice for a student who was killed during the student protests in April 2017.

One of the protesters told RFI:

"We feel that enough is enough. For a state where we have oil, we have uranium, and etc. We do not agree".

Association

In response to the protest actions against the 2018 Finance Law, the authorities targeted ACTICE, the main organiser of the 29th October demonstration (see section above). The government issued a decree effective 30th October that banned all ACTICE activities on the territory of Niger. In addition, authorities arrested three civil society activists from ACTICE - Abass Abdoul Aziz Tanko, Abdoulaye Harouna and Djibo Issa - on charges of "participation in an unauthorised protest and armed gathering”. On 24th November, a judge ordered their release but also ordered them to pay for the damages to public property during the protest. 

In November, the Government of Niger withdrew from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), following its suspension on 26th October by the EITI Board due to inadequate progress overall in implementing the EITI Standard, including with regard to civil society engagement, stating that:

"Having considered developments subsequent to Validation, the EITI Board also determined that Niger has made inadequate progress in meeting the EITI’s requirements on civil society engagement, which also implies suspension as per requirement 8.3.c.i".

Association

While the authorities generally allow civil society to operate, NGOs find security is a concern in the north of the country because of the actions of extremist groups.

While the authorities generally allow civil society to operate, NGOs find security is a concern in the north of the country because of the actions of extremist groups. The government also uses the fight against terror to clamp down on dissenting voices, a tactic which has made the environment for civil society more difficult. In May 2015, human rights defender and Secretary General of civil society organisation Alternative Espace, Moussa Tchangari, was arrested by the anti-terror brigade after conducting a media interview concerning traditional leaders. He was arrested on suspicion of conspiring with Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria and charged with “undermining national defence”. He was later arrested for taking food to detained traditional chiefs. In May 2014, the coordinator of NGO Volontaires pour L’integration Educative was arrested and detained for over a month after speaking on a radio programme about starvation in the Oualam region. He was later released without charge. In 2015, Nouhou Azirka, President of the Movement for the Promotion of Responsible Citizenship, was arrested for “endangering national security” after he said soldiers were working under poor conditions.

Peaceful Assembly

Organisers of peaceful protests are required to give the authorities 48-hours’ advanced notification.

Organisers of peaceful protests are required to give the authorities 48-hours’ advanced notification. Public protests do take place in Niger but police sometimes use disproportionate force to break them up. In 2013, police violently dispersed a teachers' strike with baton charges and teargas, also arresting union leaders. The police have also been accused of poor crowd control and resorting to the use of teargas as a first measure. In 2014, students at Abdou Moumouni University who were calling for student grants were forcefully dispersed. Some deaths during protests have also resulted from the actions of the police. Due to the escalation of the security crisis, the authorities imposed a state of emergency in the Diffa region in February 2015, limiting the freedom of movement and freedom of assembly.

Expression

Niger is committed to freedom of expression through its constitution and other international agreements it has ratified, including the Table Mountain Declaration, in which it commits to creating an environment for freedom of expression to flourish.

Niger is committed to freedom of expression through its constitution and other international agreements it has ratified, including the Table Mountain Declaration, in which it commits to creating an environment for freedom of expression to flourish. In practice, however, journalists face obstacles to their work and are regularly taken to court because of what they write, although prison sentences for media offences were scrapped by law in 2010. Journalists are routinely arrested for criticising the president or accusing him of corruption. In 2015, access to social media was blocked for a few hours to silence criticism of the president’s participation in a memorial for the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. The army is also very sensitive to reporting on its activities. Also in 2015, two newspapers, L’Actualité and L’Opinion, were banned from publishing for a month for allegedly violating the journalist’s charter. In 2013, the editor of L’evenement newspaper was threatened by a senior army official after the publication of an article claiming army officials had been arrested for taking part in a botched coup attempt. In 2014, the editor of L’enqueteur newspaper was arrested and charged with conspiracy against the state after publishing an article saying the ruling party’s days were numbered. In the same year, a host on Radio Television Bonferey was arrested after airing a programme in which the president was accused of corruption. Journalists also suffer physical assaults. For instance, in 2013, journalists were attacked by security forces for covering a teachers' strike.

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