PRESS FREEDOM

Free press advocates call on Niger to reverse ‘disastrous’ fine for FinCEN Files reporter

ICIJ member Moussa Aksar was fined more than $2,100 following a complaint by one of the subjects of his investigation into a military procurement scandal.

Media defense organizations have called upon Niger authorities to overturn a decision that fined investigative journalist, Moussa Aksar, for reporting on one of the country’s largest corruption scandals.

A court last week in the West African capital, Niamey, fined Aksar more than $2,100 (1800 euros) following a complaint made by an individual who was mentioned in an investigation by Aksar into an alleged military procurement scandal.

“This decision is an encouragement to bad governance and an attack on investigative journalism in Niger,” Arnaud Froger, Africa desk director of Reporters Without Borders, said in a statement. “The message sent is simply disastrous.”

Last year, as part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ FinCEN Files investigation in collaboration with BuzzFeed News, Aksar matched details of a leaked government audit with bank records to reveal fresh details about contracts signed with shell companies to purchase helicopters and other military equipment. The leaked audit estimated that Niger lost at least $120 million through falsified contracts from 2017 to 2019.

Niger authorities have not yet prosecuted individuals or companies exposed in the scandal, Aksar said.

Aksar, who is the director of Niger newspaper L’Evenement and an ICIJ member, told ICIJ that his lawyers will appeal the decision.

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