HRDs whose work focuses on the environmental and human rights impact of the extractive industry in Niger are subjected to severe threats. In their work to denounce the lack of corporate accountability, transparency and fairness in dealings between the government and extractive industries, they have faced harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention.
President Mahamadou Issoufou was the first leader to endorse the 2011 Declaration of Table Mountain. The Declaration of Table Mountain calls on African governments to recognise the importance of freedom of the press and, crucially, highlights the necessity for the independence of the press from political and government institutions. Additionally, it calls on governments to repeal criminal defamation, criminal libel and insult laws that often restrict the work of human rights defenders. However, journalists that criticise the government or denounce human rights violations in the country are at risk, even though Article 23 of the Nigerian Constitution permits freedom of thought, opinion and expression. Some have been subjected to intimidation, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests, trumped-up charges, and unfair trials. All these threats prevent journalists from exercising their freedom of speech and expression, and for this reason they often practice self-censorship.
Amidst the chaos and tension recently caused by Boko Haram’s insurgency in the Diffa region of Niger, the government introduced a State of Emergency. The permissions under the State of Emergency have been used as a tool to further harass human rights defenders and restrict their work. This is especially true for journalists. In order to maintain control, the Niger government has limited freedom of speech and of the press, which has resulted in arrests of human rights defenders without charge.