Nigerien Journalist Arrested Over Boko Haram Activities | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Nigerien Journalist Arrested Over Boko Haram Activities

Posted: May 20, 2015 at 7:28 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

 By Celestine Amoke, Lagos

A journalist and rights activist, Moussa Tchangari,  known for his outspoken criticism of the humanitarian crisis in southeastern Niger has been arrested for allegedly “collaborating” with Boko Haram Islamists, the country’s interior minister said  on Wednesday, May 20, 2015.

The human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, has condemned Tchangari’s arrest and called for his immediate release.

“This man has been collaborating with Boko Haram for some time, and he is actively spreading propaganda and false news in liaison with Boko Haram,” Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou told AFP.

“All his propaganda aims to show… that Niger’s defence and security forces are the criminals… (and) not Boko Haram.”

Niger cannot “tolerate such an active collaboration with terrorists” or such “systematic spreading of false news”, he added.

Tchangari was arrested on Monday and charged with “criminal links to the terrorist group Boko Haram”, he said.

Tchangari’s organisation, Alternative Espace Citoyen, has been critical of the humanitarian crisis in southeastern Niger, where the army is fighting Boko Haram.

In early May, his group published a report that criticised the Niger authorities after the evacuation of some 25,000 Lake Chad residents over  fears of new Islamist attacks, following a deadly assault in late April.

At the time, Tchangari said thousands of men, women, children and elderly Lake Chad residents “walked for more than 50 kilometres (30 miles)” until they reached safety.
“No preparations were in place to welcome… or support them,” he added.

A UN source had early in May said the evacuees were living in “dramatic” conditions — without tents or shelter, and in some cases without access to drinking water.

The Amnesty International in a statement on Tuesday called on Niger to free Tchangari “immediately”, saying: “The fight against Boko Haram must not serve as a pretext to violate free speech.”

The call for Lake Chad residents to evacuate came a week after a cross-border assault by Nigerian-based Boko Haram insurgents on the island of Karamga that left at least 74 people dead.

It was Niger’s heaviest loss since it joined a regional offensive against the militants, whose six-year insurgency has claimed some 13,000 lives and displaced about 1.5 million people.