Prominent civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), on Saturday, demanded the immediate and unconditional release of two Kwara-based journalists persecuted by Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, for allegations of defamation.

HURIWA’s National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the remand of the two pressmen – Akogun Abdulrasidi and Dare Akogun – as draconian and undemocratic the action of the governor who should know better not to gag press freedom and suppress free speech.

According to reports, an Ilorin Magistrate Court sitting in Ilorin on Friday ordered two journalists to be remanded at Oke-Kura Correctional Centre over allegations of defamation brought against them in a petition by the governor through his Chief Press Secretary, Rafiu Ajakaye.

The governor also accused the duo of inciting the public against him simply because they accused the government of the day of being most corrupt and of facilitating N15 million for the last election of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Kwara State chapter.

HURIWA’s Onwubiko commented, “The remand of the two Kwara journalists without trial again tells a sad story of abuse of power by those in government. How do journalists, members of the fourth estate of the realm, who are doing their legitimate duty, how can that be termed as incitement? Rather than flexing muscle and abusing power entrusted by the people of the state, the Kwara State Government should cease its draconian and undemocratic suppression of press freedom and free speech. The governor should be reminded that we are in a democracy, not dark days of military despotism. He should come up with facts and settle to prove his innocence against corrupt charges if he has any at all.  Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides inter alia that ‘every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference…’ Also, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states thus: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ Governors like that of Kwara and his brothers in Cross River, Kaduna, amongst others should desist from oppressing journalists exposing their alleged misconduct. HURIWA condemns the Kwara situation and demands an immediate end to the persecution of these media practitioners by the Kwara State governor.

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