Reporters Without Borders ended a five-day fact-finding visit to Niamey yesterday with a news conference at the Niger Press Club to present its initial findings and conclusions, including the observation that the press freedom situation has improved considerably since President Mamadou Tandja’s ouster in February 2010.

Despite a difficult economic environment, Reporters Without Borders found a considerable degree of diversity and plurality within both the print and broadcast media, which are all very outspoken. Although the final period of Tandja’s 10-year rule was marked by many press freedom violations, including harassment and sometimes closure of media by the CSC (the then regulatory body) and frequent spells in prison for journalists, Reporters Without Borders is aware of very few incidents since Tandja’s ouster in a military coup on 18 February 2010.

Reporters Without Borders has hailed the desire to guarantee media freedom that has been demonstrated by both the transitional government and the new government that was elected at the start of this year.

The past year and a half has been marked by significant successes and achievements for media freedom. Reporters Without Borders found that both the state and privately-owned media conducted themselves in a very satisfactory manner during the elections. The achievements include the reopening of the Press Club, whose activities in support of journalists deserve praise, and the decriminalization of media offences, which protects journalists from prison sentences.

Many journalists and most media observers nonetheless acknowledge that there has unfortunately been a big increase in disparaging and defamatory articles since media offences were decriminalized in June 2010. “Decriminalization does not mean the freedom to say or write anything or to smear individuals with impunity,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Decriminalization is an achievement that must be defended, but it must be accompanied by responsibility.” The press freedom organization hails the creation of ONIMED, a self-regulatory body that has been set up to investigate complaints against the media and tell journalists when they violate professional ethics.

At the end of July, Reporters Without Borders will publish a detailed analysis of the media freedom situation in Niger and Guinea, which the organization visited last month. This report will include recommendations for the authorities and media in both countries.

July 1st, 2011 - 15:22 UTC
by A.Sennitt
(Source: Reporters Without Borders)