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Niger - A Case Study in campaigning to change the laws

Niger - A Case Study in campaigning to change the laws

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Nigerien journalist and president of the Maison de la Press, Boubacar Diallo, shows how you can use presidential elections to put a free press higher on the agenda.

Boubacar Diallo holds up a copy of the Declaration, signed by a presidential candidate

The Declaration of Table Mountain (DTM) has gained traction across Africa since it was ratified by WAN-IFRA in 2007. In Niger, the governments of Mamadou Tandja and Mahamadou Issoufou have been particularly receptive to its terms. The following case study gives a blow by blow account of the change that the DTM has instigated in the way in which the Nigerien administration deals with the press.

Under the leadership of President Mamadou Tandja, Nigerien journalists were regularly jailed for defamation and insult up until a military coup d’etat that saw the end of his rule on 8 February 2010.

A new law decriminalising media offenses like defamation was then passed into law by the caretaker government in June 2010.

Boubacar Diallo, president of the Maison de la Press in Niger and public campaigner against repressive criminal defamation laws, signed up to the Declaration of Table Mountain (DTM) campaign at The African Editors Forum in Bamako, Mali in October 2010.

At Mr Diallo’s instigation and with WAN-IFRA's support, ahead of the 12 March presidential election, the DTM gained the support of both presidential candidates as signatories - Mahamadou Issoufou of the Social Democratic Party and Seini Oumarou of the National Movement for a Developing Society. In doing this they committed themselves to promoting freedom of expression and reviewing existing media laws, if elected.

On 16 July 2011 President Issoufou, on national television and radio agreed to counsel for the DTM and to support the freedom of the press in Africa as it is one of the mechanisms of good democracy.

However, despite support from the President and the decriminalisation of defamation by the military junta, journalist Oumarou Aliou Modibo, editor of independent newspaper Canard Déchain was arrested and detained on 21 July 2011, on the order of a judge, for "false accusations" against one of general Djibo Salou's press secretaries.

The above case study shows two important elements. The first is how local human rights defenders, such as journalists and media professionals, can be inspired to affect real change by implementing actions that have a direct impact on influencing a president to promote freedom of the press and thus, ensure the public’s right to inform and be informed.

The second is despite laws decriminalising media offences, the judge in this case was not adhering to the current law.  In that regard, an awareness of the Declaration of Human Rights, in particular, Article 19 and indeed the laws of Niger would have been beneficial and would not have seen this journalist detained.


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Alison Meston's picture

Alison Meston


2011-01-12 19:30

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WAN-IFRA’s Declaration of Table Mountain is an earnest appeal to all Africans, particularly those in power, to recognise that political and economic progress flourishes in a climate where the press is free and independent of governmental, political or economic control. Read more ...