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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09NIAMEY515 2009-07-13 11:26:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Niamey
Cable title:  

President Tandja Tightens Grip on the Media

Tags:   PGOV PHUM SOCI KCOR KPAO NG 
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RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHNM #0515 1941126
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131126Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY NIAMEY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5186
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEHLMC/MCC WASHDC
					  UNCLAS NIAMEY 000515 

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/RSA, DRL/AE, AND AF/PDPA LISENBY
PLS PASS TO USAID FOR AFR/W
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SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM SOCI KCOR KPAO NG
SUBJECT: President Tandja Tightens Grip on the Media

Ref: a) Niamey 00484, b) Niamey 00493, c) Niamey 00507



1. Summary: President Tandja boldly moved to assert his will over
the independent media on July 08 by granting sweeping powers to the
chairman of the media regulator agency, the High Council for
Communication (CSC). Independent media organizations have been
swift in their condemnations. The President's actions may prove to
have a more chilling effect on opposition coverage during a crucial
political season. End summary.

President Tandja Grants Media Regulator Sweeping Powers


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2. President Tandja signed a resolution late July 08 to amend Law
No. 2006-24 (July 24, 2006) and greatly expand the authority of the
CSC chairperson. The resolution was implemented under President
Tandja's invocation of Article 53, granting himself emergency
authority to rule by decree (ref A). The CSC chair is considered by
independent media organizations to be a pawn of the President and
now has been empowered to take preventive measures without prior
notification or approval from other council members if he determines
that a media outlet has published or broadcast information
threatening to the state or public order. The chair is now merely
required to inform other council members after action has been
taken, whereas heretofore disciplinary action could only be taken
with the approval of a quorum of council members, formal
notification and a hearing. This latest move comes after the
Government's previous attempts to shut down independent media (ref
B) were rebuffed by the courts and several members of the CSC itself
(ref C).

Journalists Cry Foul


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3. The political opposition and defenders of press freedoms decry
this attempt to muzzle the private press. Boubacar Diallo, chairman
of the Association of Editors of the Independent Press, told the
French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) on July 09, "This is a
serious decision, a blank check given to the CSC president to act
and we should expect a cascade of closures of media outlets." The
President of the Network for Human Rights, Abdouramane Ousmane, told
Radio France Internationale (RFI) on July 10 that all journalists
may start self-censoring in fear of the "Damocles sword hanging over
their heads." The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) wrote President Tandja on July 10 to register its alarm at
increasing restrictions on the Nigerien private press. The Nigerien
Organization of Social Professionals in the Media Sector, in a July
11 statement signed by nearly every major private media
organization, said the President's move places press freedoms,
independent media, and democracy in Niger in "grave peril."

Comment


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4. President Tandja's actions to assert his control over independent
media in Niger are becoming increasingly heavy handed. Initial
condemnations from the media have been sharp, but given that most
independent media organizations run on a shoestring, the threat of
suspension or jail time for unflattering coverage of the government
may lead to excessive caution and self-censorship at a critical
juncture in Niger's nascent democracy. Without credible,
independent voices during the referendum campaign, the President's
already controversial plan to extend his regime will be further
delegitimized. End comment.

ALLEN