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Niger Bans Charlie Hebdo Over Security Concerns

People pray during a rally against French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, in Bamako, Mali, Jan. 16, 2015.

A prominent member of the ruling Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS- Tarayya) says the government’s decision to ban the distribution of the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in the country is to ensure peace and stability in the Muslim dominated West African country.

Sani Iro, the communications director for PNDS- Tarayya, says some churches in Zinder in the Damagaram region, were torched on Friday by irate Muslim youth following the latest publication of Charlie Hebdo in France.

He said the government acted in good faith to maintain the country’s peace by banning the Charlie Hebdo publication.

Iro said the government has deployed security officers to Zinder following the burning of some churches and Christian related structures.

“Yes, to make sure that peace is reigning in the country, while other measures are being taken,” said Iro.

He said Niger, which has a majority Muslim population, found the publication offensive.

“The population cannot understand that such a cartoon may be allowed in our country. This is why the government took this measure and banned the cartoon,” said Iro.

Critics say the banning of the distribution of the newspaper infringes on the freedom of speech which is guaranteed by the constitution.

Iro admits there is a constitutional provision that allows for media freedom but added that there is a need to ensure responsibility and accountability.

“Any kind of freedom has a limit,” said Iro. “Even if there is freedom of expression, you know that there are some things that cannot be allowed in a society for the sake of serenity of peace …If there is an expression that would bring trouble in the country it’s the role of the government to prevent the trouble in this country.”

Senior Muslim clerics criticized President Mahamadou Issoufou for saying on the air that “We are all Charlie” following the France terror attack. Mr. Issoufou was also among the world leaders who marched in support of Charlie Hebdo and to denounce the terror attack.

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