NIAMEY (AFP) — A press freedom organisation Friday condemned the government of the west African state of Niger for "harassing" Dounia, an independent broadcasting group.
"The Dounia group is the victim of repeated harassment by the judicial authorities," Reporters Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) said in a statement.
"It should not be held responsible for what is said on the air."
The statement follows the arrest of Abibou Garba, director of the Dounia radio and television station, on charges of "disseminating false news" following a discussion of a recent visit to Niger by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"We urge the authorities to withdraw the charges against Garba," RSF said.
Garba and Idi Abdou, a political activist in the Alternative Citizen Space organisation, were charged after a televised discussion on the Dounia channel about the mining of uranium in Niger by the French group Areva.
The station's deputy director Ali Idrissa said the problems began after Idi Abdou described Sarkozy's visit of a few hours to Niger as a "technical stopover and looting of Niger's resources" during the discussion.
RSF recalled that the group is due to appear in court on April 14 in connection with claims of defamation made by local parliamentarians, following critical remarks made in a television broadcast by a political leader.
In August 2008 the authorities took the group off the air for a month for allegedly breaching the terms of its licence.
Previously they had threatened to withdraw its broadcasting licence after pictures were shown of security forces dispersing backers of former prime minister Hama Amadou who had been placed under arrest by a court.
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