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Presidency accused of media intimidation

28 June 2013, 14:00Emeka Adebanji

Abuja - The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called upon the Nigerian authorities to stop the harassment of journalist.

This follows alleged violations of newspaper staff who are accused of forging a document detailing President Goodluck Jonathan’s political plans ahead of the 2015 general election.

Political Editor of Leadership Group, Tony Amokeodo, and co-accused Chibuzor Ukaibe, who is a political reporter, as well Omofuma Juliane, a secretary of the media group, are facing life sentences following accusations they forged the document.

The memo outlined Jonathan’s plans to increase gas prices and sabotage a merger of opposition parties ahead of the polls.

CPJ West Africa Consultant, Peter Nkanga, slammed the arrest describing it as a ploy to intimidate the media and discourage them from covering pertinent issues.

“These excessive criminal charges are intended to deter critical coverage of the president as elections draw nearer. Authorities should drop these charges immediately," Nkanga said.

The president's office vehemently denies the authenticity of the memo arguing it was designed to mislead the public and discredit Jonathan.

The media house has stood by the expose and received support from other journalists who strongly believe that the document is genuine.

The Leadership Group staff was charged on 11 counts including forgery, conspiracy to commit a felony, inciting feelings of disaffection against the president, and inducement to commit an offense against public peace.

The journalists were however granted bail of 500 000 Naira (about US $3 165) while a court date has been set for July 16.

Initial charges that included forgery had been filed against the journalists at the Federal High Court in April, but were dismissed in May after Leadership challenged the court's jurisdiction to hear the case.

Reuben Abati, a spokesman for the president, said the initial charges had been dropped "on technical grounds" arguing the police had filed the complaint in the wrong court.  He said the case was re-filed at the Abuja High Court.

- CAJ News


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