from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – MEDIA rights groups have condemned the arrest of a journalist for his reports on the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in neighbouring Niger.
Kaka Touda Mamane Goni has been arrested at his home in the capital Niamey for the news updates posted on his Facebook and Twitter pages.
His arrest stemmed from a complaint filed by the local General Reference Hospital, which alleged Goni’s posts on social media on March 4 about a suspected COVID-19 case at the hospital posed a threat to public order.
It is alleged people admitted at the health facility fled the hospital.
Sick members of the public reportedly refused to go to the hospital.
If found guilty, Goni could face up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of 5 million West African francs (US$8, 169 or R141 601), according to the West African country’s cyber-crime laws.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) criticised the arrest of Goni.
Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa programme coordinator, said Goni and all other journalists in Niger should be free to cover the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak without fear of being jailed.
She said authorities should release Touda immediately, ensure he is given proper medical care, and drop their case against him.
The journalist is reportedly suffering from an upset stomach, dizziness, and a worsening injury to his left foot
“Authorities should not confuse censorship and the detention of a journalist with prudent public safety measures as part of their coronavirus response,” Quintal said.
– CAJ News