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Nigeria21 November 2002

Newspaper offices burned down by Islamic fundamentalists

Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities today to protect for press freedom in northern Nigeria after Islamic fundamentalists burned down part of the offices of the daily newspaper This Day in Kaduna.

"It is getting harder and harder for journalists to do their job in the region," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Kaduna state governor Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi. "Several have been physically attacked or threatened by Islamic fundamentalists or by police. The local authorities must take clear steps to guarantee press freedom."

Several hundred Muslims arrived in a bus at the Lagos-based newspaper’s offices in Kaduna on 20 November and burned down part of the building. Earlier in the day, youths burned all the copies of the paper at a warehouse. They were angry that the paper had carried an article on 16 November saying that the Prophet Mohammed "would probably have chosen a wife" from among the Miss World candidates who will appear in the contest in Nigeria on 7 December.

Several religious groups have strongly protested against the article and called for the paper to be punished. The Supreme Council for Sharia Implementation in Nigeria said the paper had "declared total war on Islam" and that Muslims should "declare the same on the paper." It called for a advertising boycott.

On the eve of the fire in Kaduna, the paper’s management had printed an apology to Muslims and said it had been wrong to publish the article. The newspaper Daily Trust reported that federal security officials had summoned the managing editor of This Day, Nduka Obaigbena, for questioning.

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