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Newspaper publisher arrested and released

(MFWA/IFEX) - On 20 September 2010, Moussa Aksar, publisher of privately-owned "L'Evénement" newspaper, was arrested and detained overnight by security personnel drawn from Niger's intelligence service (Renseignements Généraux, RG) for allegedly criticising the country's security agents.

Aksar was reportedly picked-up in his home at about 20:30 GMT and grilled for about 12 hours. He was released on 21 September without charge.

The Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) correspondent in Niger reported that the arrest of the publisher followed comments he made on France 24, a French television channel, during a live-discussion programme, on 15 September.

The correspondent said Aksar had blamed the security agents for security lapses in the north of the country. He said these lapses have enabled a militant group, suspected to have links with the Al-Qaeda movement, to abduct seven foreign nationals - five French nationals, a Togolese and a Madagascan.

Media groups in the country have condemned the arrest of Aksar and called on the authorities to ensure that the media operates freely in the country, without fear or intimidation.

"We strongly condemn this arrest which we think is a tactic that belongs to another era. Besides, it is an attack on the freedom of expression and of opinion," stated Boubacar Diallo, president of the Niger Press Centre.

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