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Cablegate: Journalist's Arrest Sparks International Concern

VZCZCXRO9575
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #1220 2701023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271023Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3795
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0597

UNCLAS NIAMEY 001220

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF/W DENNISON; AF/RSA FOR HARPOLE; AF/PDPA FOR BEDICHEK

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KCOR KPAO NG
SUBJECT: Journalist's arrest sparks international concern

REF: (a) Niamey 957; (b) Niamey 970; (c) Niamey 992

1. On September 25 Nigerien journalist Moussa Kaka was charged with
violating Niger's national security for alleged collaboration with
MNJ rebels fighting against GON forces in the North. Police
arrested Kaka on September 20 citing evidence including phone
records and recordings of telephone calls between Kaka and members
of the MNJ. He has been held in custody since his arrest and was
transferred to prison after his arraignment. Local media and
international human rights organizations have decried this action as
politically motivated.

2. Kaka is the director of Radio Sarounia, a private radio station,
which also serves as the local affiliate for Radio France
Internationale (RFI). On July 19, RFI's broadcast was banned for one
month in response to the station's coverage of the MNJ rebellion
(ref a).

3. Kaka's attorney has mounted a novel defense to the charges,
noting that the GON has not officially recognized the MNJ as a rebel
movement, and instead characterizes the group as a criminal
organization. This may place Kaka's alleged acts outside the scope
of the national security statute. Further complicating matters, on
September 24, Nigerien President Mamadou Tandja dismissed several
federal prosecutors, including the one responsible for Kaka's
arrest. The newly appointed successor has not yet indicated how he
will proceed in the case, although he did follow through with the
arraignment.

4. Condemnation of Kaka's arrest swiftly followed, and Niger's
private media, journalist associations and international press
freedom and human rights watch organizations, including Amnesty
International, Reporters without Borders (RSF), the Committee for
the Protection of Journalists (CPJ), and Federation Internationale
des Journalistes (FIJ), have called for his immediate release.
These groups maintain that Kaka's prosecution is politically
motivated and an attempt by the GON to stifle reporting on events in
the North. There are also questions and concerns about the legality
of the methods by which the alleged telephone recordings between
Kaka and the MNJ were obtained.

5. While it is still uncertain how the case will proceed and the
quality of the government's evidence against Kaka is unknown at this
time, the arrest raises serious concerns of an increasing GON
assault on press freedom (ref b and c).

ALLEN

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