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Nigeria4 February 2008

Newspaper’s chairman freed after being held for two days by state governor

Reporters Without Borders notes that Sam Asowata, the chairman of the board of the Abuja-based independent weekly Fresh Facts, was released on 29 January, two days after being arrested over an article accusing the governor of the southeastern state of Akwa Ibom of corruption. The state of Akwa Ibom said it was withdrawing its libel suit “to reinforce relations with the media.”

Essien Ewoh, Fresh Facts’ distributor in Akwa Ibom, is still held. He was arrested on 24 January.

29.01.08 - Newspaper’s chairman and local distributor arrested at state governor’s behest

Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of the Sam Asowata, the chairman of the board of the Abuja-based independent weekly Fresh Facts, who was arrested in Abuja on 27 January with his daughter and was subsequently transferred to Uyo, the capital of the southeastern state of Akwa Ibom, at the behest of the state’s governor, Godswill Akpadio.

The press freedom organisation also calls for the release of Essien Ewoh, Fresh Facts’ distributor in Akwa Ibom, who was arrested in Uyo on 24 January after distributing the latest issue, which announced that the next one would have a story about a suspicious housing deal involving the governor.

“Once again a state governor has behaved like a provincial potentate, arresting anyone he likes,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Nigeria’s journalists often have to face the ire of state governors when their activities are publicly exposed or their decisions are questioned. Their power must be limited and until it is, Nigeria will not be able to be regarded as proper democracy.”

When Asowata and his daughter were arrested, their mobile phones were confiscated and they have not been able to talk to their relatives. So far, all attempts to obtain their release have failed. Fresh Facts publisher Segun Abrams said however that he had been told by a divisional police officer that Asowata’s daughter could be freed soon. She was not taken to Uyo with her father and is being held at Garki police station, in Abuja.

Ewoh was arrested after the Uyo police failed to prevent distribution of the latest issue of the newspaper advertising a story about Governor Akpadio in the next issue. According to the newspaper, the governor has entered into a housing construction deal worth 5.5 billion naira (32 million euros) with a businessman being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

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