Moussa Aksar: Niger must respect the right to Freedom of Expression and a Fair Trial
Free Press Unlimited has noted with great concern that Moussa Aksar, an internationally well-known investigative journalist and the director of l’Evenement Niger and president of the West African Network of Investigative Journalists CENOZO, will be tried by the Nigerien court on January 8th. A complaint of defamation was filed against him, and he is facing a reparatory fine of 7.500 euros.
The accusation follows an article that Aksar wrote in September 2020, in which he exposed a major fraud scandal committed by the Nigerien Ministry of Defense. The article is based on leaked information on suspicious financial transactions, also known as the FinCEN files. These documents disclosed that a large sum of money had been transferred from Ukraine to Niamey, the capital of Niger. Based on investigations of the FinCEN documents, Aksar showed that the Nigerien Ministry of Defense had committed fraud up to a total sum of 120 million US dollars. Not long after the publication, a complaint of defamation was filed by one of the individuals criticised in Aksars article.
Free Press Unlimited is concerned about the growing trend of prosecutions that journalists investigating and exposing the truth face. This can be highly intimidating and lead to self-censorship. The global trend of declining freedom of the press is worrying. We urgently call upon the Nigerien authorities to respect the right to Freedom of Expression, in line with the Nigerien ratification of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Moreover, Free Press Unlimited urges the Nigerien authorities to uphold the right to a Fair Trial, as stipulated in Article 15 of the ICCPR, also ratified by the Nigerien government.
Photo: Tim Reckmann