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Niger Crackdown Against Journalists Continues


In Niger, police continue to detain journalist Ibrahim Manzo Diallo, who ran the only newspaper in a region where there is an on-going rebellion against the government. Phuong Tran has more from VOA's West Africa bureau in Dakar.

Police have transferred Manzo Diallo back to his hometown of Agadez, where he published the province's only newspaper, Air Info.

Leonard Vincent, of the Paris-based journalist rights group, Reporters Without Borders, says the journalist's transfer to the town, which is under military occupation and a government state of alert, makes it hard to track his case. "Which one will be next?" he asks. "Which journalist will be taken in custody and accused of extravagant charges? It raises a lot of concerns for us, because it will be difficult for us to visit him. It will be difficult to get information."

Manzo Diallo's family has said he was arrested late Tuesday when trying to leave for three months of training in France. They say authorities are accusing him of working for Radio France International, whose detained correspondent Moussa Kaka faces accusations of plotting with the rebels against the government.

No formal charges have been filed against Manzo Diallo.

Reached shortly before his arrest, Manzo Diallo said his only job was as editor of Air Info, a newspaper with a circulation of about 1,500 subscribers, that re-opened last week after a three-month government suspension. Diallo says Air Info was closed for three months, during which time he was not working. He says it was difficult to provide for his family, and that he also felt responsible to his employees who were out of work.

Government officials said the paper was suspended because its coverage of the Tuareg rebellion could incite violence and endanger security.

The paper had published a photo of a dead government soldier following a rebel attack in late June, as well as a list of 20 arrested Tuaregs suspected of having ties with the rebels.

Manzo Diallo was also arrested in July when he tried to launch another newspaper.

The ethnic Tuareg rebels took up arms eight months ago, complaining of government neglect and demanding more profits from uranium mining in the northeast. Niger President Mamadou Tandja refuses to negotiate with the armed nomads, dismissing them as bandits and drug traffickers hiding behind a political front.

The government's High Council on Communications has warned journalists to report carefully on the rebellion to avoid inciting violence. Journalists say the warning is, effectively, a media blackout.

Agadez newspaper owner Manzo Diallo is just the latest journalist to face problems after reporting on the rebellion.

Libya's President Muammar Gadhafi is suing three Nigerien newspaper owners for $200,000 each for publishing reports saying he funded the current Tuareg rebellion.

Radio France International's Moussa Kaka faces life imprisonment if found guilty of colluding against the state.

Last week, Niger authorities expelled independent French journalist, Francois Bergeron, who had been under a one-month investigation for his reporting on the rebellion.

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