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Government refuses visa to RSF secretary-general

(RSF/IFEX) - The government of Niger has refused to provide Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard with a visa for a trip he was to have made to Niamey to participate in a special day of solidarity with the organisation's imprisoned correspondent, Moussa Kaka, which Radio France Internationale (RFI) is organising on 10 March 2008.

After submitting a visa application to Niger's embassy in Paris on 19 February, Ménard was notified seven days later that his request had been denied. Communication minister and government spokesman Mohammed Ben Omar subsequently confirmed the refusal to him by telephone.

"We deplore this discriminatory treatment, which is not in Niger's interests," Reporters Without Borders said. "We hope the government will not persist in this attitude, which will just perpetuate the status quo and hurt Niger's image even more."

Ménard made two recent trips to Niamey without any problem, in November 2007 and January 2008, to visit Kaka in Niamey prison and to seek the release of two French journalists employed by the Franco-German TV station ARTE, Thomas Dandois and Pierre Creisson. Arrested in December after visiting northern Niger, where the Tuareg rebels of the Niger People's Movement for Justice (MNJ) are active, Dandois and Creisson were freed on 18 January.

The Niamey correspondent for both Reporters Without Borders and RFI, Kaka was arrested on 20 September 2007 and charged with "complicity in a conspiracy against the authority of the state" because his phone calls with an MNJ leader allegedly demonstrated that he was "conniving" with the rebels. He is facing a possible life sentence (see IFEX alerts of 12 February and 17 January 2008, 23 November, 28 and 21 September 2007, and others).

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