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Two journalists given suspended prison sentences for "defamation"

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned three-month suspended prison sentences handed down for libel against the weekly "L'Evénement" journalists Moussa Aksar and Sani Aboubacar.

The worldwide press freedom organisation also deplored the fact that they have both already spent six days in custody in Niamey central prison.

The paper's editor, Moussa Aksar, and journalist Sani Aboubacar were arrested on 12 November 2008 after the publication on 29 September of articles about "mismanagement" of the Niger power company Nigelec and "fraudulent hiring" of the sister of President Mamadou Tandja's chief of staff.

"For the second time in a month, journalists have been held in custody for defamation cases. We can only remind the Niger authorities that imprisonment is neither an appropriate or fair response in media cases", Reporters Without Borders said.

The editor and journalist on the privately-owned paper were released on 18 November after sentencing by the Niamey correctional court. They were also each fined 50,000 CFA francs (approx. 76 euros) and each ordered to pay 500,000 CFA francs (approx. 760 euros) in damages to the complainant, Foukori Ibrahim, the head of Nigelec.

Both journalists immediately appealed the verdict, which Aksar described to Reporters Without Borders as "harsh" and the authorities reaction "disproportionate" since it concerned a disagreement between himself and an "ordinary individual."

Another journalist, Zakari Alzouma, received the same suspended three-month sentence for defamation on 11 October 2008.

Updates alert on the Askar and Aboubacar case:

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