News: Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay strongly condemns arrest of members in Niger

Statement

The Africa Steering Committee (ASC) of Publish What You Pay (PWYP) strongly condemns the arrest of Ali Idrissa, coordinator of PWYP Niger, Board member of PWYP and coordinator of the Niamey-based civil society organisation ROTAB on 25 March 2018, along with his colleagues Moussa Tchangari, the General Secretary of the Nigerien NGO Alternative Espace Citoyens, and Idrissa Mama, member of the Confederation Nigerienne des Travailleurs, a trade union affiliated to PWYP Niger. Ali Idrissa and his colleagues were placed under arrest on Tuesday morning and transferred to various prisons across the country. Ali Idrissa is being transferred to the Filingué prison, 180 km from Niamey.

The arrests occurred in conjunction with an unauthorised demonstration against the finance law voted by the Nigerien Parliament in November 2017 to set the 2018 state budget. Clearly undermining citizens’ right to peaceful assembly, the Nigerien authorities had banned the peaceful march the day before. Until then, the authorities had been refusing to engage with civil society members, including Ali Idrissa, dismissing them as political opponents. Despite this, civil society members and citizens have been taking to the streets for weeks to speak out against a law they argue will foster corruption and tax breaks for the country’s elite. The independent news outlet Labari, which regularly features pieces critical of the government’s policies, was shut down by authorities on the same day as the arrests.

Ali Idrissa and his colleagues have long advocated for more transparency in Niger’s uranium mining sector and for the respect of the rights of Nigerien citizens. Niger is the world’s fourth largest producer of uranium yet remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The detained civil society actors have also worked on protecting the principle of transparency of Niger’s natural resources which is enshrined in Niger’s 2010 Constitution.

“For many years, Niger has been on a downward spiral in regards to its commitments to fundamental freedoms, and since it left the EITI in 2017 these commitments have rapidly eroded. We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of civic space faced by civil society organisations in Niger, witnessed by the continued arrests of independent voices in the country”, said Tiemoko Sangare, Chair of the PWYP Africa Steering Committee.

We call on the Government of Niger to immediately release Ali Idrissa, Moussa Tchangri and Idrissa Mama, to reinstate Labari as an independent news outlet and to respect the freedoms of expression, assembly and association of civil society in Niger.

— Media contacts: Demba Seydi, dseydi@publishwhatyoupay.org, +221 77 344 59 59

Asmara Klein, aklein@publishwhatyoupay.org, +45 21 22 81 35

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