Dakar, Senegal, October 12, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists has called on Nigerien authorities to drop all charges against journalist Samira Sabou and allow her to work freely.
“Authorities in Niger must swiftly drop all legal proceedings against journalist Samira Sabou, return her phone, and ensure that journalists in the country can work without fear of arrest or prosecution for their work,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Sabou faced prosecution under Niger’s previous government, and it is alarming to see the new military authorities continuing efforts to harass and imprison her. It sends a chilling signal to all journalists in Niger.”
On Wednesday, October 11, a magistrate court in the capital, Niamey, provisionally released Sabou, who regularly posts news and commentary on her Facebook page, after 11 days in detention, according to her lawyer, Ould Salem Saïd, and a family member who spoke to CPJ on the condition of anonymity, citing safety concerns. Authorities kept Sabou’s phone and ordered the journalist to provide one week’s notice of any intention to travel to the judge.
Sabou is charged with disseminating data likely to disturb public order, which is punishable by up to three years imprisonment and a maximum fine of 5 million West African francs (US$8,080), and is also accused of maintaining “intelligence with a foreign power,” a treasonous charge that carries the death penalty, according to Article 31 of the cybercrime law and Article 63 of the penal code.
The charges are in connection to Sabou talking to foreign diplomats, using an aircraft flight tracking app called Flightradar24, and a September 29 Facebook post reporting on a document detailing assignments of Niger’s military personnel, according to the family member.
On September 30, four men in plainclothes arrested Sabou at her mother’s home. The Niamey judicial police denied arresting Sabou but called her lawyer on October 7 to inform him that she was being held in custody at their service, Saïd told CPJ.
In July, Niger’s military took control of the government in a coup that overthrew its democratically elected president. Since then, CPJ and other press freedom groups have raised concerns about journalists’ safety in the country.