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Broadcaster suspended for one month without explanation

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the 19 August 2008 decision by the Higher Council for Communication (CSC), Niger's media regulatory body, ordering the Niamey-based radio and TV broadcaster Dounia to suspend operations for one month. No explanation was given and Dounia was given no chance to defend itself.

"Niamey's privately-owned media are being forced with increasing frequency to submit to decrees that are clearly being issued for purely political reasons," Reporters Without Borders said. "This is a disturbing development, especially as the authorities no longer offer any clear explanation to the media they punish."

The press freedom organisation added: "The authorities can always brush aside our protests as coming from abroad, but they cannot continue to hide behind respect for Niger's sovereignty if they break their own rules."

On 19 August, Dounia's management received a letter from CSC chairman Daouda Diallo ordering the "provisional suspension of its broadcasts." It said that "after deliberation by the council," broadcasts "are suspended for a period of a month" for "failure to respect the terms of reference." The letter did not elaborate.

Dounia deputy director Ali Idrissa told Reporters Without Borders that he reached the CSC's general secretary by phone but could not get him to provide any further explanation for the suspension. "We do not understand why they took this decision today and why we have not even been allowed the right to defend ourselves."

The one-month suspension was ordered the same day that a Niamey appeal court quashed an investigating judge's decision to release Radio Saraounia director Moussa Kaka provisionally. The Niger correspondent of Radio France Internationale and Reporters Without Borders, Kaka has been in prison since 20 September 2007.

Judges also rejected a request for the provisional release of former Prime Minister Hama Amadou, who has been held on an embezzlement charge since 26 June 2008.

Dounia had received a "formal warning" on 27 June in which it was accused of "broadcasting elements inciting violence and confrontation" in a report about police violence during Amadou's arrest.

The CSC had also previously ordered the closure of Sahara FM, the main radio station in the northern city of Agadez, for "an indefinite period", on 22 April, for broadcasting interviews with people who had been the victims of abuse by government troops.

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