Chief Judge of Niger state, Justice Mariam Zukogi, has charged two journalists working with the stateowned media organisation, Newsline Newspapers, for contempt of her court. They were docked for declining to divulge the source of a story concerning the state judiciary published by the newspaper.
Editor of the paper, Mohammed Hadi Pandogeri, and the judicial correspondent, Uthman Siraja, were said to have been invited by the Chief Judge to her office on Thursday, last week, but were ushered into court room to face trial. It was learnt that the journalists drew the anger of the Chief Judge when they declined to divulge the source of published story that the National Judicial Council (NJC) had rejected appointment of some judges from the state.
Pandogeri told our correspondent in Minna that he was invited by the Chief Judge along with Siraja, adding that “when we got to her office, she refused to see us, but said we will meet in court.” “We were taken to the court before the Chief Judge appeared and, to my surprise, our case was the first on the schedule. The case was cited as we versus the Chief Judge,” he said.
The editor said while on the dock, the Chief Judge requested him to identify the copy of the newspaper and the particular story on the rejection of appointment of judges from the state by the NJC, adding that “after I identified the newspaper as ours, she said I should tell her the source of the story and I told her that I cannot disclose my source of information. When she asked me again to disclose the source of the story, I kept quiet. At was at this point that the Chief Judge ordered me to disclose the source of my story on next adjournment date of face contempt of court before adjourning till April 18. Reacting to the development, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) urged the Chief Judge to “unconditionally stop the trial immediately.”
The union, in a statement issued at the weekend by its National Secretary, Shuibu Usman Liman, said “we condemn a situation like this in which journalism is being threatened by the narrow self-interests of political and corporate bodies.” It described the trial as “an attempt to instill fear in journalists and to endanger media pluralism and democracy,” adding that “the future of democratic pluralism and the defense of people’s rights are dependent on the rights of citizens to receive reliable and useful information.
” Our correspondent gathered that the state Acting Governor, Ahmed Ketso has directed the Commissioners for Information and Justice to initiate a meeting with the Chief Judge.