Two journalists charged under the Cybercrime Law

Expression

Two journalists charged for having shared a CSO report on drugs trafficking

On 9th September 2021, journalists Samira Sabou and Moussa Aksar appeared before the investigating judge at a court in Niamey on charges of 'defamation via electronic means' and 'diffusing information to disrupt public order' under the 2019 Cybercrime Law. The charges stem from having shared, online, a report on drugs trafficking in Niger by the CSO Global Initiative Against Transnational Crime. On 9th June 2021, the Central for the Repression of Illicit Drug Trafficking (OCRTIS) had filed a complaint against the Global Initiative over the report. According to the human rights CSO Front Line Defenders, the hearing in September 2021 comes after months of harassment of Sabou, including summons to appear before courts and other judicial bodies. On 27th May 2021, Sabou received an anonymous call from someone who said she needed to present herself at OCTRIS. Later that day, dozens of police officers forcefully entered her residence and attempted to arrest her without a warrant before OCTRIS officers arrived to arrest her. Sabou was interrogated, without her lawyer present, and was released later that day. 

The Maison de la Presse condemned the judicial harassment of the two journalists and expressed its concerns on the use of the 2019 Cybercrime Law to prevent journalist's from exercising their profession freely. 

As reported previously on the Monitor, both journalists had been judicially harassed before for their reporting. On 7th May 2021, a court convicted investigate journalist and editor of media outlet L'Evénement Moussa Aksar of defamation and ordered him to pay a fine of 200,000 francs CFA (355 USD) and one million francs CFA (1,775 USD) in damages following a defamation complaint over an article he wrote in September 2020 alleging embezzlement within the Ministry of Defence, which was reportedly based on leaked information. Journalist, blogger and WHRD Samira Sabou spent more than 45 days in prison after she was arrested on 10th June 2020 after a defamation complaint by the son of president Mahamadou Issoufou over a Facebook post commenting on an audit of contracts for the purchase of military material within the Ministry of Defence and its irregularities. Sabou was subsequently charged with 'defamation by means of electronic communication' under the 2019 Cybercrime Law. The High Court of Niamey acquitted Sabou on 28th July 2020.

Samira Sabou is a 2021 recipient of the Freedom of Expression Award from the Index on Censorship. 


Peaceful Assembly

Civil society protest against insecurity

According to news reports, hundreds of people protested on 18th September 2021 in Tillabéri against increasing insecurity and jihadist attacks in the region and to call for national cohesion. The protest follows one week after President Mohamed Bazoum visited the Tillabéri region.