NIAMEY, Oct 20 (Reuters) Around 200 journalists and human rights activists marched in Niger's capital today to protest against the detention of two journalists and restrictions on media covering a Tuareg uprising in the north.
The demonstration in Niamey came a month after the arrest of Moussa Kaka, head of a radio station in the northern town of Agadez and local correspondent for Radio France International (RFI), who could face life in prison for his alleged support for the rebel Movement for Justice in Niger (MNJ).
Independent journalist Ibrahim Diallo Manzo, who works for the magazine Air Info also based in Agadez, was arrested on October.
9. He has yet to be charged.
''Free the journalists Moussa Kaka and Ibrahim Diallo Manzo'' and ''No to the totalitarian drift in power'' read banners carried by the demonstrators.
''Freedom of the press is a right which we must constantly defend and we say no to the muzzling of the media,'' said Mahirou Ahmadou, representative of the Association of Independent Television and Radios (ARTI), after the rally.
The MNJ has killed at least 45 soldiers, mostly with landmines, in an eight-month campaign for greater autonomy and government revenues in desolate northern Niger, home to some of the richest deposits of uranium in the world.
Niger's uranium provides around a quarter of France's electricity and French state-run utility Areva operates mines in the region.
Chinese investors hope to start production soon.
President Mamadou Tandja's government refuses to recognise the MNJ and denounces the movement as bandits and drugs smugglers. In August, it declared a state of emergency in northern Niger, handing the police and military exceptional powers to control the movement of people.
Authorities have banned foreign journalists from visiting the area. Last month it expelled French documentary maker Francois Bergeron after detaining him for a month for alleged links to the MNJ.
Niger's media watchdog has threatened to shut down any organisation which it deems to have unfairly reported the insurrection in the increasingly lawless north, where car-jacking and banditry have become increasingly common.
REUTERS SZ PM1930