The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), has called for the unconditional release of journalists that were persecuted by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq led government, for allegations of defamation.
Afrika Eyes gathered that the two Kwara-based journalists Akogun AbdulRasheed and Dare Akogun were arrested on Thursday over a petition brought against them by the Chief Press Secretary to the Kwara state Governor.
In a statement released by the HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, obtained by Afrika Eyes described the remand of the two pressmen as draconian and undemocratic the action of the governor who should know better not to gag press freedom and suppress free speech.
According to reports, an Ilorin Magistrate Court sitting in Ilorin on Friday ordered two journalists to be remanded at Oke-Kura Correctional Centre over allegations of defamation brought against them in a petition by the governor through his Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye.
The governor also accused the duo of inciting the public against him simply because they accused the government of the day of being most corrupt and of facilitating N15 million for the last election of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kwara State chapter.
The statement read, “The remand of the two Kwara journalists without trial again tells a sad story of abuse of power by those in government. How do journalists, members of the fourth estate of the realm, who are doing their legitimate duty, how can that be termed as incitement?
“Rather than flexing muscle and abusing power entrusted by the people of the state, the Kwara State Government should cease its draconian and undemocratic suppression of press freedom and free speech. The governor should be reminded that we are in a democracy and not dark days of military despotism.
“He should come up with facts and settle to prove his innocence against corrupt charges if he has any at all.
“Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides inter alia that ‘every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference…’
“Also, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states thus: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’
“Governors like that of Kwara and his brothers in Cross River, Kaduna, amongst others should desist from oppressing journalists exposing their alleged malfeasance. HURIWA condemns the Kwara situation and demands an immediate end to the persecution of these media practitioners by the Kwara State governor,” Onwubiko said.
Meanwhile, Mr Ajakaye reacted to the arrest of the two journalists on Thursday saying being a journalist did not offer anyone a licence to become reckless and defame others unfairly.
According to him, “I was a journalist with an experience nearing two decades in local and international media. Now as a publicist, I do everything within my responsibilities to protect my colleagues.
“You can ask around in Ilorin. But I don’t think being a journalist offers anyone a licence to become reckless and defame others unfairly. Anyone who knows me knows I like to stick to the law. If they are being detained, as you have mentioned, this possibly happened a few hours ago today (Thursday) as I am on an assignment in Offa (as I write this).
“I firmly believe that the police are professional enough to know the boundaries of our laws. I trust them to keep the law in their relationship with every member of the public, including the accused and myself, who has had to deal with the trauma of being unfairly lied against on a public platform.
Mr Ajakaye said that he does not agree that anyone should be blackmailed out of a legitimate bid to clear their names within the boundaries allowed by our law.