Two journalists face ongoing judicial harassment in Niger
On 29th June 2017, Ali Soumana, a journalist and director of publications at the weekly Le Courrier, was detained on accusations of "violating judicial confidentiality". After the police searched his home, the charges against him were changed to "obtaining judicial documents through fraudulent means" under the Penal Code, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison if found guilty. Soumana published a document from the prosecution in a case concerning a five-year legal dispute between the State of Niger and the Lebanese company Africard over a breach of contract for biometric passports.
The charges against Soumana under the Penal Code are in direct violation of Niger's 2010 Press Law which de-penalises press offenses and guarantees the confidentiality of sources in accordance with article 16. Soumana has faced judicial harassment before in June 2016. According to Reporters without Borders, he and the owner of Le Courrier, Moussa Dodo, were detained for ten days and received a three-month suspended sentence on charges of "publishing documents" that allegedly showed preferences given to certain candidates in hiring practices at the public health ministry.
Maison de la Presse in Niger issued a statement condemning the most recent charges against Soumana. The organisation's leadership expressed its concern over the "harassment and pressure" on journalists in the country and encouraged those working in the media sector "to remain vigilant and determined" in the face of such challenges.
In a separate incident, Baba Alpha and his father, both of Malian descent, were each sentenced to two years in prison, ten years of deprivation of political and civil rights, and fined 300,000 CFA (approximately 538 USD) on charges of forging documents to acquire Nigerien nationality in 2011. Both have been in detention since 4th April 2017. Alpha is a journalist for the private TV channel Bonferey and is known for his critical, anti-government reporting. He also served as a Secretary General of the Union of Information and Communication Workers.