The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has berated the Cross River state Governor, Prof Ben Ayade, over the detention of a journalist, Agba Jalingo, for six months.
Jalingo was granted bail, Thursday, by a Cross River state court after 175 days in custody following his arrest and trial over charges bordering on treason.
HURIWA National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, told journalists, Thursday in Abuja, that Ayade was behind Jalingo’s travails.
“He was arrested because they say he wrote a damaging article. The governor is 100 per cent behind the detention of Agba Jalingo,” Onwubiko said.
The group, which described the governor as a dictator and tyrant, however, took a swipe at the media for not doing enough to fight the alleged injustice against one of its own.
“We condemn the maltreatment of Agba Jalingo. We condemn the governor of Cross River State. He is a dictator and a tyrant. We want to say if the federal government has a hand in it, we also condemn them.
“We understand he has been granted bail this morning, but it does take away the injustice against him. The passivity of the media is regrettable.
“If a journalist is arrested and everybody goes about his business as if nothing has happened is that person not a journalist. It is very regrettable and it something the media has to go back and do soul searching,” he said.
According to him, “One of us was arrested and thrown into jail by a governor, who did not want anybody to question him to account for money given to the state, and whoever intervened was threatened.
“The arrest of Agba Jalingo has put the image of Nigeria in a very terrible shape. The best way to polish Nigeria’s image internationally is to respect human rights. You have no right to take a journalist out of circulation and lock him up.
“If you feel your reputation has been wounded or maligned, you have all available remedial mechanisms. You can go to court, even as a governor. Or simply publish a counter.
“When a journalist says Mr A did not account for how he spent N500 million that belongs to everybody and you know that it is not true or that the journalist did not make effort to do some kind of research, then you take a space to do a refutal through that same channel or you go to court.
“You can sue the newspaper for libel. There are many available instruments of the law to try to remedy any injury you think your reputation has suffered.
“Someone says account for how this money was spent and you just take him and put him in jail. They are dealing with journalists because when they arrest, the rest of the community goes on with their business as if it doesn’t really matter,” he said.