Senegal: CPJ wants charges against two Nigerian media workers dropped

Dakar, Senegal (PANA) – Nigerian authorities should drop all charges against Dapo Olorunyomi, publisher of the news website Premium Times, and reporter Evelyn Okakwu, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said.

CPJ in a statement made available to PANA in Dakar, Senegal, on Friday, revealed that  
plainclothes police officers raided the website's office in the capital Abuja and arrested the two on 19 January 2017.

The police held the publisher and the reporter who covers the judiciary for the website, for hours before releasing them on condition that they answer defamation charges in court on Friday.

According to the statement, police spokesman Don Awunah told Premium Times that the officers were acting on a criminal complaint filed by Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, Nigeria's chief of army staff, alleging that the website had defamed him.

Buratai had previously threatened legal action against the paper for its coverage of military operations targeting the militant group Boko Haram.

"Arresting and charging publisher Dapo Olorunyomi and reporter Evelyn Okakwu is a transparent ploy to intimidate and silence Premium Times' staff for their critical reporting," remarked CPJ West Africa Representative, Peter Nkanga.

"We call on Nigerian authorities to drop all charges against the journalists and to desist from further attempts to intimidate the media."

CPJ said the Nigerian Army on 22 December 2016 wrote to Premium Times accusing the website of a series of "libellous and defamatory publications" regarding Buratai and the military's campaign against Boko Haram.

The army threatened legal action if Premium Times failed to apologize and retract the offending articles, which included a 12 December 2016 report written by Okakwu that said Buratai would be investigated on suspicion of falsely reporting assets.

The Premium Times' lawyers were said to have responded to the army, saying the paper stood by its reporting.

"By your letter you have threatened the lives of our clients...Should any harm come to them, you, the chief of army staff and the Nigerian Army should be held accountable," the lawyers wrote.

CPJ disclosed that Nigerian authorities have harassed Premium Times for its reporting on corruption and human rights abuses.

The Nigerian government in 2013 accused the website of inciting mutiny within the military and undermining military operations against terrorist activities in northern Nigeria.

-0- PANA MLJ/AR 20Jan2017

20 january 2017 16:36:18

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