In neighbouring Niger Republic, a journalist who has been very critical of the way the government has handled the humanitarian crisis as a result of its war against Boko Haram, has been arrested and accused of collaborating with the terrorists group.
Moussa Tchangari leads an organisation, Alternative Espace Citizen. Early this month, the group released 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.”
The Niger interior minister, Hassoumi Massaoudou said on Wednesday that Tchangari “has been collaborating with Boko Haram for some time, and he is actively spreading propaganda and false news in liaison with Boko Haram.”
Speaking to the AFP, the minister said: “All his propaganda aims to show… that Niger’s defence and security forces are the criminals… (and) not Boko Haram.” He said that Niger cannot “tolerate such an active collaboration with terrorists”, or such “systematic spreading of false news.”
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has condemned Tchangari’s arres.
In a statement Tuesday, Amnesty International 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