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Two French journalists charged with "undermining state security"

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abridged translation of an RSF alert:

RSF deplores the laying of charges on 21 December 2007 against Thomas Dandois and Pierre Creisson, journalist and cameraman, respectively, with Camicas Productions on assignment in Niger for the Franco-German channel Arte.

(. . . )

Arrested on 17 December, the two journalists were taken before an investigating judge on 21 December, who informed them that they had been charged with "undermining state security" in accordance with the prosecutor's instructions, their lawyer Moussa Coulibaly told RSF. The maximum penalty for this offence is death. Placed under a committal order, they have been incarcerated at the Kollo penal camp, 20 km from Niamey, according to the same source. They were detained with their driver, Al Hassane Abdourahmann, who was charged with "complicity in undermining state security".

The authorities accuse the journalists of breaching the prohibition on travelling to the north of the country in order to report on the Tuareg rebel group, the Niger Movement for Justice (Mouvement des Nigériens pour la justice, MNJ). They were in possession of a visa and authorisation to film a report on avian flu. Journalists have been strictly prohibited from entering the northern region, site of regular clashes between Niger's army and Tuareg rebels, since the imposition in August of a "state of alert", which gave extended powers to the military in the region.

According to Niger's minister of communication and government spokesperson, Mohamed Ben Omar, they were detained on their way back to the capital in Koré-Maïroua, 200 km from Niamey, after being under surveillance since their departure.

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