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Newspaper editor gets one-month prison sentence for comparing two court decisions

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders again reiterates its call for the release of Aboubacar Gourouza, the editor of the independent bimonthly "L'Eveil Plus", after a Niamey court sentenced him on 6 March 2008 to a month in prison for allegedly "discrediting" a court decision in an article in his newspaper by comparing the decision with one taken in a similar case.

"Our concern is mounting as the space for free expression contracts in Niger," the press freedom organisation said. "Editorials commenting on and sometimes comparing court decisions after the event are common practice in democratic countries but in Niger it seems to be regarded as a crime. Gourouza's conviction is clearly anti-democratic."

Gourouza was convicted for an article comparing the provisional release of the mayor of the southern city of Maradi, who is accused of embezzlement, with a decision to keep the mayor of Niamey, who is also accused of embezzlement, in prison. The editor was fined 50,000 CFA francs (approx. 76 euros) as well as getting a one-month jail term.

Gourouza has been held in Niamey prison ever since his arrest on 27 February. The prosecutor originally requested a three-month sentence and a fine of 50,000 CFA francs. Gourouza was also charged with defamation as a result of a complaint brought by a politician, Mohamed Keita, but Keita withdrew his complaint after the start of the trial.

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