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Cablegate: Government Warns Independent Media

VZCZCXRO4132
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0950 3351455
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 011455Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5491
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC

UNCLAS NIAMEY 000950

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL/AE, AND AF/PDPA SANCHEZCROWE
DEPT PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W
ACCRA ALSO FOR USAID WA
PARIS FOR AFRICA WATCHER

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KCOR KPAO NG
SUBJECT: Government Warns Independent Media

Ref: a) 08 Niamey 809 b) Niamey 493 c) Niamey 507
d) Niamey 936 e) Niamey 00844

1. (U) Summary: The Government of Niger (GON) admonished three
independent media organizations on November 19 for disseminating the
statements of former Prime Minister Hama Amadou claiming that
President Tandja intended to kill him. In a written warning, the
GON's media regulator, the High Council for Communication (CSC),
said that publishing the statements was illegal and must stop. This
incident, plus extensive coverage given to the November 22
demonstration calling for President Tandja to step down from office
and a series of editorials critical of the controversial 6th
Republic, has quieted speculation that the GON had compromised the
independent media after a press junket to accompany a GON delegation
on a swing through West African capitals in late October. End
summary.

GON Admonishes Media for Airing Claims of Former PM
--------------------------------------------- ------
2. (U) On November 19, the CSC, the GON media regulatory body,
issued a written admonishment against the private media companies
Dounia Media Group, Anfani, and L'Actualite for broadcasting the
statements of the former Prime Minister of Niger, Hama Amadou,
accusing President Tandja of homicide and the intention to kill him.
The CSC wrote that the airing of this allegation discredited and
defamed the Head of State and was punishable under Articles 21 and
38 of the legal code of March 1993.

CSC Claims Former PM's Statements Unlawful
------------------------------------------
3. (U) The CSC also claimed that Amadou's statements would likely
exacerbate the political climate and undermine the efforts of the
ECOWAS mediator. They added that respecting and safeguarding the
public order and social harmony is imperative for the media, and
warned the media to cease partisan broadcasts inciting hatred and
sedition, a contravention of Article 17 of the legal code of July
2006.

Independent Media Air Threats Claimed by Former PM
--------------------------------------------- -----
4. (U) During an interview conducted with private radio and
television operator Dounia during the visit of a Nigerien civil
society and opposition delegation consultation with ECOWAS in Abuja,
Nigeria, Amadou said that he would not return to Niger because
President Tandja would kill him, as he has recently done to others.
Amadou called on the people of Niger to resist Tandja's
dictatorship. The GON has repeatedly warned Dounia and the CSC has
suspended it from operation in the past (Refs a, b, and c).
Independent station Radio Anfani and the independent weekly
newspaper L'Actualite picked up and disseminated this interview.

Unsuccessful GON Attempt to Sway Media?
--------------------------------------------- --
5. (SBU) During a November PAS-sponsored workshop on the role of
journalists in investigating and reporting human rights abuses,
several independent journalists suggested that some major private
media organizations would be less critical of the government
following a press junket in late October, sponsored by the new Prime
Minister, Ali Badjo Gamatie (ref E). The GON invited and paid for
representatives from private radio, TV, and print media to accompany
a nine-member GON delegation on a tour to "explain the political
situation of Niger to West African state leaders." Not long after
the junket, however, the independent media gave extensive coverage
to a November 22 rally of over 3,000 protestors in Niamey organized
by the opposition coalition Coordination of Forces for Democracy and
the Republic (Ref d), published several editorials critical of the
government, and risked censure by airing the interview with Amadou.

ALLEN

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