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Niger to block foreign press reporting food crisis

Written by: Staff

NIAMEY, Apr 5 (Reuters) Niger said it would deny accreditation to foreign journalists who reported alleged food shortages in the central African state after criticising three BBC journalists for their ''negative'' coverage.

The BBC said on Monday a team of its journalists had their permission to work withdrawn by the government in Niamey after finding evidence of food shortages in the Maradi region in central Niger, hard hit by last year's humanitarian crisis.

But Niger's government denied it had stripped the journalists of their accreditation, saying it had summoned them to explain that their coverage was one-sided and did not present the country's efforts to solve its problems.

''We did not expel the BBC. We summoned the team to say their report had caused shock and Niger is more than just recurring food shortages,'' said Fogue Aboubacar, secretary-general at the Culture, Arts and Communication Ministry yesterday.

''Niger is also about the authorities attempts to solve these problems and one must stop focusing on the negative side,'' he added. ''That is what happened in 2005 and we are not going to tolerate it, especially as harvests have been good.'' ''Be it the BBC, CNN or any other media, we will not hand out more accreditation on the food situation,'' he said.

During 2005, an estimated 3.6 million people -- over a third of Niger's population of 12 milion -- were left short of food, including some 800,000 children suffering from malnutrition.

In November, Niger accused aid agencies such as the World Food Programme of exaggerating the threat of severe food shortages this year to boost their funds.

Rates of malnutrition run at 10.5 per cent in the country as a whole, rising to as high as 21.3 per cent in Maradi.

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