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Editor imprisoned on defamation charges

IPI urges government to immediately release Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 23 September - The director of weekly Niger news magazine Le Témoin (The Witness), Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh, was arrested on Sunday on charges of defaming the communications minister, a journalist at the magazine told IPI by phone on Wednesday.

Gaoh was arrested in connection with a 14 September article entitled "Wassosso à la SONITEL" which implicated Niger's communications minister, Mohamed Ben Omar, in a financial scandal.

Le Témoin journalist Amadou Tiémagou told IPI that the allegedly defamatory article implicated the minister in massive financial irregularities relating to the 2001 privatisation of SONITEL, a Niger telecommunications company. The company has since been re-nationalized, according to news reports.

Gaoh was brought before the courts for the first time on Wednesday. If convicted, he could face "several months" in jail, Tiémagou said.

He is next due to appear before the judge on Friday.

"The International Press Institute (IPI) condemns the arrest of Ibrahim Soumana Gaoh, and demands that he be released immediately," said IPI Director David Dadge. "Journalists have a right and a duty to report on government activities that are in the public interest, and should be permitted to do so without fear of retribution."

In another case that has drawn widespread criticism, journalist Abdoulaye Tiémogo, director of Le Canard Déchainé, was imprisoned last month for "casting discredit on a judicial ruling" after making televised comments about his paper's coverage of a government warrant that had been issued for former Prime Minister Hama Amadou. Tiémogo was sentenced on 18 August to three months in prison.

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