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French Journalists May Face Death Penalty in Niger


A pair of French journalists detained in Niger while on assignment for a television station may face the death penalty.

A lawyer for the journalists says the two (Thomas Dandois and cameraman Pierre Creisson) have been charged with colluding with rebels after allegedly defying a ban on foreign reporters covering a northern rebellion.

The lawyer says the charges could carry the death penalty and says they are a serious setback for liberty and the rule of law.

Officials in Niger say the journalists were allowed into the country to report on bird flu, but instead went to the north of the country to interview rebels.

The government of Niger recently declared a state of alert in the Agadez region, where Tuareg rebels have been launching attacks on government convoys, planting landmines and taking government soldiers hostage.

The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has also criticized the arrests. The group says the journalists' Nigerien driver was also detained.

A government spokesman (Mamane Mamadou) has said the media are free to cover all sides of the conflict, but he says reporting on rebels by journalists could fuel more violence and endanger public safety.

The rebels are demanding to be integrated into the army, and they want a bigger share of profits from the uranium mines located in their northeastern desert area.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.