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Two journalists sentenced to one month in prison for libel, another released

(IFJ/IFEX) The following is a 7 February IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for Release of Newspaper Editor and Owner Sentenced to Jail in Niger

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

"We are outraged that the judicial system is used to muzzle the press in Niger," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa office. "We call on the Niamey court to review its judgment in the appeal and to drop all charges against Souley and Maïga and release them."

Souley and Maïga of L'enquêteur were sentenced today by a court in the Niger capital Niamey to one month in jail and ordered to pay 40.000 Francs CFA (60 Euros) each for damages along with one symbolic Franc CFA to the Minister. The paper's lawyer said they will appeal the decision.

The Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zène filed the defamation complaint after L'enquêteur published three articles on November 19 alleging he was involved in granting state projects "illegally" and encouraging "mismanagement" of public finances.

The IFJ also called for the released and the discharge of the journalist Moussa Kaka, who has been jailed since September 20, 2007, and charged with "involvement in a plot against the state's authority" for suspected links with the rebels of the Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ). His trial is due to resume on February 12.

In a separate case yesterday, Ibrahim Manzo Diallo the editor of the newspaper Aïr-Info was released on bail after 4 months in prison on charges of "criminal association," stemming from accusations that he has links with the rebels of the MNJ. The IFJ welcomed Diallo's release but said that it was belated and is calling on the court to clear him of all charges.

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

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