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African artists, performers, journalists, lawyers and academics - including Achille Mbembe, Pius Njawé, Youssou N'Dour, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Claudy Siar, Mokobe and Angélique Kidjo - were among the first people to sign a petition by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) for the release of its Niger correspondent, Moussa Kaka.

Manager of Radio Saraouniya and Niger correspondent of Radio France Internationale (RFI) and RSF, Kaka was arrested on 20 September 2007 and charged with "complicity in a conspiracy against state authority" for his frequent contact with and reporting on the northern Tuareg rebels of the Niger People's Movement for Justice. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says the government has targeted RFI in recent months over its coverage of a deadly northern rebellion of nomadic Tuaregs, according to local journalists and news reports.

In another case, Ibrahima Manzo Diallo, director of the "Aïr Info" newspaper in the northern town of Agadez, was arrested at Niamey's airport, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). In its 26 September edition - the first since a three-month suspension imposed in July over its critical coverage of the government's role in the conflict - "Aïr Info" had published a list of people arrested on suspicion of links with the rebels, AFP reported. Authorities declared a three-month state of alert around Agadez in August.

On 12 October, French filmmaker François Bergeron was expelled after a month's detention for while filming in Agadez, the French daily "Libération" reported.

Meanwhile, ARTICLE 19 has published a new report and an action plan on free expression in Niger. The report (in French), "No democracy without freedom of expression and the press", reveals an incessant denial of freedom of expression. Kaka's detention, it says, demonstrates such abuses.

RSF says its petition to President Mamadou Tandja will remain open until Moussa Kaka is freed. To sign it, send a message to [email protected]

Visit these links:
- RSF article:
- Journaliste en Danger:
- ARTICLE 19 report and action plan (French PDF):
- Action plan in English:
- IFJ on Diallo:
- CPJ:
(16 October 2007)

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