The Republic of Niger is a landlocked country in West Africa on the edge of the Sahara desert. According to the UN Human Development Index (HDI), Niger is rated as one of the least-developed nations. Niger has suffered a series of coups and political instability after its independence from France in 1960. Today, Niger continues to face serious economic challenges due to drought, insurgency and wide-spread poverty. Niger is relying on increased oil exploration and mining to modernize its economy. However, basic rights such as slavery- which was banned in 2003 and still remains a problem- high illiteracy rate and diseases remain stubborn challenges.
At – a – glance
Official language: French
President: Mahamadou Issoufou (re-elected in March 2016)
Population: 17.83 million (World Bank, 2013)
National Anthem: La Nigerienne
The Media & Freedom of Expression (FoE) Landscape in Niger
The media in Niger both print and broadcast are made up of a diverse collection of public and private entities. Although the media is largely centered in the capital, Niamey, there are vibrant regional centers across the country. And because a majority of Niger’s population live in rural communities, are relatively poor, and illiterate, radio is their primary source of information and entertainment.
Since the re-installation of democracy in 1999, efforts have been made to ensure press freedom and freedom of expression. Thus, in 2010, the transitional government made significant efforts to restore these freedoms. In June that same year, the National Assembly adopted a new press law that eliminated prison terms for journalists, and removed the threat of libel cases that journalists had faced under previous regimes. In February 2011, the transitional government approved the Charter on Access to Public Information and Administrative Documents, which aimed to improve transparency and the public’s access to information. Also, in 2012, the media were largely allowed to freely publish political facts and critiques. The government does not restrict internet use, though less than one percent of the population has access.
In spite of these efforts which aim at ensuring the existence of a free press, journalists sometimes attacked by police or law enforcing bodies while covering protests. Journalists are also prosecuted for libel in some instances. For instance, in January 2014, four journalists were detained by police without charge but released within days; the authorities had accused the journalists of defamation, false accusation, and “appeals to hatred and violence.”
For more information on the status of FoE in Niger, visit Freedom House.
Media Regulatory Bodies in Niger
The Council of the Press serves as a journalism accrediting body. The Council of the Press was established by the High Council for Communication (HCC). Also, under the Fifth Republic the HCC is responsible for creating a professional committee of journalism in Niger, which in turn creates the Charter of Professional Journalists of Niger. And for these reason, critics have argued that the media of Niger is heavily controlled by government.
There National Communication Observatory (ONC); the official media regulatory body replaced the repressive High Council for Communication (HCC) in 2010 of which veteran journalist Abdourahamane Ousmane was appointed to head.