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Live discussions on privately-owned media banned

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 8 June 2009, Niger's media regulatory body, the High Communication Council (CSC), banned all live discussions on the prevailing political situation in the country by privately-owned electronic media outlets.

The CSC Chairman, Daouda Diallo, who announced the ban, said it has become necessary as it would prevent what he termed as "risk of media excesses".

MFWA's correspondent reported that the ban comes in the wake of recent political tensions in the country, following the unsuccessful bid by President Mamadou Tandja to prolong his stay in office, which ends in November.

After failing to gain legislative support, President Tandja dissolved the country's parliament and in an address to the nation on 29 May announced an impending referendum to adopt a new constitution for the country.

The correspondent said the president's address sparked heated debate spearheaded by the electronic media, giving an opportunity for Nigeriens to express diverse opinions on the issue.

MFWA is worried about the tendency of the CSC to ban the media in Niger as this is censorship and undermines media freedom.

Suspensions of the media in Niger have become rampant under the administration of Tandja, since a Tuareg armed group, Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice "MNJ" (the Niger Movement for Justice), launched a rebellion in the northern part of the country in 2007. The government outlawed the group and through the CSC banned the media from covering its activities. Some media houses were closed down and a number of journalists were arrested for flouting the government's order.

MFWA calls on the CSC, as a matter of urgency, to lift the ban and allow the media to operate freely without interference from any quarters.

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