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Editor and owner of newspaper arrested, detained after libel charge filed by government minister

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Release of Newspaper's Editor and Owner in Niger

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for the release of L'enquêteur editor Ibrahim Souley and owner Soumana Maïga who were arrested in Niger after the Minister of Economy and Finance filed a libel complaint against the newspaper.

"The press freedom violations in Niger are catastrophic. Four of our colleagues have been arrested on charges stemming from their work," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "Journalists can be brought to trial but there is no need to jail them or keep them in police custody like they are criminals. This is a clear move by the government to try to intimidate them and the rest of the journalism community."

Maïga, who owns the weekly private newspaper L'enquêteur, was arrested on Wednesday. Editor Ibrahim Souley was jailed on Tuesday. Both are being held in detention by police in Niamey, the capital city.

According to local sources the arrests are in response to a libel complaint filed by the Minister of Economy and Finance Ali Mahamane Lamine Zène. The Minister said he was defamed after L'enquêteur published three articles on November 19 alleging he was involved in granting state projects "illegally" and encouraging "mismanagement" of public finances.

Two other journalists, Moussa Kaka and Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, have been jailed in Niger for more than two months. They are accused of criminal offences following their coverage of the Tuareg rebellion in the country.

The IFJ renewed its call to President Mamadou Tandja to ensure the release of the four imprisoned journalists who it believes have worked professionally and are being held without any compelling evidence against them.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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