Niger journalist: I stay awake at night with a fear of being arrested.
The spotlight shifted onto my country, Niger, on July 26th, a departure from its usual absence from international headlines. Speculations about a coup at the presidential palace began to circulate, prompting me to immediately reach out to my contacts and gather information to ascertain the truth.
The confirmation came swiftly that same night when the head of the presidential guard announced that President Mohamed Bazoum was under “house arrest,” marking the overthrow of the democratically elected leader. In a matter of days, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself as the new leader.
For the following fortnight, sleep eluded me as the entire BBC sought my insights. However, communication hurdles made it challenging to keep the conversation flowing.
Soon, a shift in the atmosphere became apparent. The military junta and their supporters adopted an uncompromising stance: “You’re either with us or against us.” As the BBC chronicled the complex developments and global reactions, the mood grew tense. I remained committed to reporting objectively on the unfolding events, despite facing increasing challenges.
However, my dedication attracted criticism from some of our audience in Niger who sought information that aligned solely with their perspective. Pro-Russia, pro-Tchiani, anti-French sentiments became prevalent labels, obfuscating more than they clarified, yet casting me into the limelight.
Social media trolling escalated, followed by abusive phone calls. The military junta’s threat to expel all “foreign” media further heightened the risks of reporting on pro-Tchiani demonstrations in Niamey, the capital.
As my work became progressively difficult, so did life’s basic necessities. Electricity scarcity, courtesy of Nigeria’s reduction in supply, forces me to spend most of my day without power, wrestling with charging my devices. Though seemingly minor, these challenges jeopardize my ability to disseminate information about ongoing events.
The Ecowas economic blockade exacerbates food scarcity, leaving people in search of a scapegoat for their hardships. Finances are dwindling as well, magnified by the daily cash economy. Withdrawal limits at 50,000 CFA ($83) barely suffice as prices soar.
While shopping, I keep a low profile as the joy and laughter that once resonated in the streets have faded. Conversations revolve around the coup, but only one side is permitted to dominate the discourse.
Anyone who openly opposes the coup risks being beaten up or having their house ransacked. I fear I could be arrested at any moment by the military junta. This thought keeps me awake at night but I have taken some precautions.
I lock the door behind me when I’m home and won’t open it to anyone. It’s a shadow of the life I used to lead but I want to keep telling the story of my country to the world.