Charges dropped against Leadership journalists

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Abuja’s federal high court withdrew all charges yesterday against journalists Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe in connection with an article published in the independent Leadership newspaper.

The two men were detained for two days in early April and were charged on 16 April.

10.04.2013 - Newspaper reporters released conditionally after two days

Leadership newspaper reporters Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe were released at around 5 p.m. yesterday after being held in an Abuja police station for nearly two days.

Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn of their release but regrets that it is only conditional. The two journalists will have to report to the police headquarters every day.

“They want to know the identity of our sources at all costs,” Tony Amokeodo told Reporters Without Borders.

09.04.2013 - Police hold two Leadership journalists

Reporters Without Borders demands that the Nigerian government immediately free two journalists arrested for refusing to name their sources for an article critical of President Goodluck Jonathan.

Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe of Leadership, a privately owned daily, were detained on 8 April in the capital city of Abuja after being summoned to police headquarters. The summons followed publication of an article reporting that the president had written a memorandum ordering disruption operations against political opponents.

“The detention of these two journalists is unacceptable,” Reporters Without Borders declared. “Depriving them of their freedom violates Nigerian law as well as journalists’ basic right to protect sources’ confidentiality. If the president feels offended by an article, he has a number of ways to respond other than launching a harassment campaign.”

The president’s office initially dismissed the article in question, published on 3 April, as “cheap blackmail.” Four days later, the two journalists, along with two colleagues, received the summons to appear before Deputy Police Commissioner Danmallam Mohammed at 9 AM. That night, journalists Chuks Ohuegbe and Chinyere Fred-Adegbulugbe, were allowed to leave.

But Amokeodo and Ukaibe were transferred to the Criminal Investigation Department, where they were interrogated before being taken back to police headquarters.

Azubuike Ishiekwene, managing director of Leadership Newspapers, told Reporters Without Borders that he is deeply concerned for the two journalists who remain in police hands. Their detention is a “despicable affront” to press freedom, he said. Ishiekwene demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

The Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria has also condemned the government’s action against the journalists.

Nigeria is ranked 115th of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index. In 2012, summing up five months of attacks on press freedom, the organization characterized Nigeria as a country of “daily arrests and assault of journalists.”