Just returned from meeting journalists in Niger
The future seems bright for the Nigerien media. Local media are flourishing – there are around 230 radio stations (many of them community radio stations funded by donor money), four TV channels and about 100 newspapers.
The advent of democracy (Mahamadou Issoufou was elected in a peaceful poll in February this year), has enshrined gains made under the military junta which preceded him. Journalism has been decriminalised, which means no more arbitrary arrests and locking up of reporters, something which was common under the regime of Mamadou Tandja (1999-2010).
"2007 under Tandja was the worst time, when we saw colleagues like Moussa Kaka (RFI correspondent in Niger) imprisoned for a year" says Boucar Diallo, head of the Niger Association of Press Editors (ANEPI). "The new code and de-criminalisation was like a breath of fresh air".
Of course Niger is not shielded from the problems facing journalists the world over – finding a sustainable funding model, and being well trained and equipped. I was fascinated to find out that media organisations find it very hard to convince business people to part with their money. "They can’t see the point in advertising" says Idy Baraoum BBC correspondent in Niger. "They think if someone wants to buy a product, they will already know where to buy it". For that reason many radio stations and newspapers are struggling, surviving off a mix of private money, income from NGOs who want specific programmes on health, education etc, and some limited government money.
But the enthusiasm and energy of young journalists is clear to see – many of them working mostly out of love for the job (they get less than $75 a month). A training session I held on social media was particularly popular – I was unable to tear RADIO ANFANI journalists, setting up their homepage, away from the computer. You can find them on Facebook!