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Nigeria31 July 2003

Journalist freed after two days in prison

Ben Adaji, correspondent of the magazine The News, was freed on 24 July after two days in jail. He had been imprisoned after writing an article criticising local police for corruption. He is being sued for libel in another matter before a court in Jalingo.


Journalist arrested after criticising police chief

Reporters Without Borders protested today against the detention of Ben Adaji, correspondent of the magazine The News in the eastern Nigerian state of Taraba, after criticising local police for corruption and abuses.

The press freedom organisation pointed out that press offences were civil matters under Nigerian law and under no circumstances could they be punished by detention or imprisonment. It called on Taraba state officials and national police inspector-general Tafa Balogun to see that he was freed immediately.

Working conditions for journalists are fairly good in the federal capital, Lagos, but they are quite dangerous in the rest of the country, with local governors regularly targeting journalists who criticise them. Media in northern Nigeria are most at risk.

Adaji has been held in prison in Jalingo (Taraba state) since July 22 without any official explanation, but his arrest appeared linked with an article he wrote headlined "Abacha in police uniform," which exposed corruption and abuse of prisoners’ rights by Taraba state police commissioner Nwachukwu Egbochukwu. Adaji was earlier briefly arrested on 29 May and accused of libel.

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