Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
The constitution and law provide for freedom of speech, including for the press, but the government sometimes threatened and arrested journalists and members of the media.
Freedom of Expression: The government cracked down on civil society activists and some journalists who expressed criticism of the government. On May 14, police arrested civil society activist Insar Abdourahmane in Agadez on charges of inciting violence based on his Facebook posts related to the so-called Uraniumgate scandal (wherein the government stands accused of price-fixing its uranium reserves with the French nuclear energy company Areva) and criticizing the government’s unwillingness to allow peaceful demonstrations on the subject. A court sentenced Abdourahmane to a six-month suspended sentence on June 8.
The CNDH expressed concern over attacks on freedom of expression. International media watchdog organizations also issued statements of concern. The Association of West African Journalists issued a statement in April, and Reporters Without Borders put out a statement in July.
Violence and Harassment: Authorities occasionally subjected journalists and civil society activists to arrest apparently linked to their reporting.
On September 11, a judge granted Ali Soumana, managing director and owner of the independent daily newspaper Le Courier, provisional release after he had served more than two months of pretrial detention on charges of “obtaining judicial documents through fraudulent means.” Authorities had first detained him on June 29. His case was related to Le Courrier’s role in publishing a court document regarding a breach-of-contract issue between the government and the Lebanese document company Africard. Press Freedom watchers alleged the charges against Soumana were a violation of the 2010 press law, which protects journalists from charges related to their work.
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists generally did not practice self-censorship, although they reported sometimes encountering pressure against antigovernment speech. Public media generally did not cover the statements or activities of opposition parties and civil society organizations critical of the government.
National Security: The declaration of the state of emergency in Diffa, Tillabery, and Tahoua Regions grants the government the authority to censor media for security reasons.
Authorities detained activists and charged them for expressing political opinions on social media. On August 27, police detained civil society activist Sirajo Issa, opposition civil society activist and president of the Youth Movement for the Emergence of Niger, for distributing communications deemed insulting to the government. The charge against him, insulting a public officer, was connected with a WhatsApp conversation claiming members of the country’s Islamic Council had accepted a bribe to select a Saturday instead of Friday date for the annual Eid al-Adha celebration (locally called “Tabaski”). On September 11, during the week following the Eid celebration, a judge ruled for his release without charge.
According to the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 4.3 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.
ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The government limited/restricted freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
Although the constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly, police sometimes forcibly dispersed demonstrators. The government retained authority to prohibit gatherings under tense social conditions or if organizers did not provide 48-hour advance notice.
The government banned planned opposition political rallies and civil society-organized gatherings in January and May. Municipal authorities often denied official permission for opposition demonstrations and rallies.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government generally respected this freedom. The law does not permit political parties based on ethnicity, religion, or region.
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government respected most of these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, or other persons of concern.
Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: There were widespread reports that immigration and security service members demanded bribes from migrants.
In-country Movement: Security forces at checkpoints throughout the country monitored the movement of persons and goods, particularly near major population centers, and sometimes demanded bribes. Transportation unions and civil society groups continued to criticize such practices.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS (IDPS)
UNHCR estimated there were more than 127,000 IDPs in Diffa Region and 14,500 displaced returnees as a consequence of Boko Haram-instigated violence. These IDPs resided mainly in out-of-camp settings in the region. Heavy seasonal rains left several thousand individuals homeless in July and August throughout the country. The government worked with foreign donors, international aid organizations, and NGOs to supply IDPs with shelter, food, water, and other necessities. The government engaged in efforts to promote the safe voluntary return or resettlement of IDPs.
Refugees and IDPs in Diffa Region were vulnerable to armed attacks and unlawful recruitment of child soldiers by Boko Haram.
International humanitarian organizations reported that intercommunal conflict between farmers and herders and between rural communities and bandits, especially in northern Tillabery Region, resulted in displacement. Competition for scarce resources–spurred by desertification and population growth–resulted in periodic conflict between farmers and herders. Incursions by armed rebels from Mali and sporadic acts of banditry on main roads also caused residents to flee.
PROTECTION OF REFUGEES
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
As of August UNHCR-managed sites hosted approximately 57,280 Malian refugees in Tillabery and Tahoua Regions. UNHCR also managed one camp in Diffa Region for refugees and one camp in Diffa Region for IDPs. UNHCR estimated there were more than 106,000 Nigerian refugees in Diffa Region, along with more than 400 refugees from Chad or other countries who lived mostly in spontaneous settlements. More than 92 percent of the refugees in Diffa Region resided outside of formal camps.
In the western part of the country, the government estimated 60,000 registered Malian refugees with prima facie refugee status lived primarily in three camps (Tabareybarey, Mangaize, and Abala) and one official “refugee zone” (Intekan), where the refugees could settle freely with their livestock and thus maintain their traditional pastoral way of life.
Temporary Protection: The government provided temporary protection to an unknown number of individuals who may not qualify as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 protocol.