It’s been almost a month since Nigerian authorities detained journalist Saint Mienpamo Onitsha.
On October 10, Matthew Perekebuna was getting ready for an outing with Mienpamo, his good friend, when he heard of the arrest. Perekebuna stated officers arrived on the home of a mutual good friend in southern Nigeria’s Bayelsa state and compelled him at gunpoint to summon Mienpamo, founding father of on-line broadcaster Naija Reside TV.
The officers detained Mienpamo in a single day earlier than flying him out of his hometown to Abuja and charged him with cyberstalking and defamation. Perekebuna stated he hadn’t spoken to his good friend since then.
“I do know Saint Mienpamo very nicely. All of us belong to the identical group,” he stated. “It has to do with politics.”
Perekebuna stated Mienpamo had spoken out towards the Presidential Amnesty Program, or PAP, a government-sponsored program that provides month-to-month stipends to former oil militants as a part of efforts to finish violence within the Niger Delta.
Authorities stated the journalist in September intentionally revealed a false and unverified report on Fb, accusing PAP officers of beating a beneficiary to dying.
Officers deny that anybody was killed. They are saying that when a beneficiary tried to power his method into the workplace, safety resisted him. The individual went to a hospital and was later discharged.
At Nigeria’s federal excessive court docket in Abuja, hearings within the case of the journalist are underway.
Anande Terungwa, Mienpamo’s lawyer, stated that the journalist had pleaded not responsible, pulled down his report, revealed a corrected story and issued an apology.
Terungwa, who visited Mienpamo in jail this week, informed VOA he suspected the case could be politically motivated.
The journalist covers the amnesty program, plus unrest within the Niger Delta area. In 2020, he confronted authorized motion over his coronavirus protection.
“They’ve been turning us round, taking part in politics. … Many individuals have revealed one thing associated to [PAP]. What number of have they arrested? What number of have they tried? They simply singled him out,” Terungwa stated.
Nigeria’s Justice Ministry didn’t reply to VOA’s requests for remark.
Nigerian lawmakers enacted the cybercrime regulation in 2015 to guard the nation’s financial system and forestall fraud and cyberattacks.
However analysts say the laws is used too typically by authorities to prosecute journalists and residents who typically criticize the federal government or politicians.
Analysts say Nigerian media are sometimes focused with arrest or lawsuits over their work.
The Committee to Defend Journalists, or CPJ, has repeatedly documented using Nigeria’s Cybercrimes Act to prosecute journalists.
Jonathan Rozen, a senior researcher at CPJ, a New York-based nonprofit, stated, “We’re consistently protecting observe of assaults on the press, jailing of journalists, killing of journalists, surveillance, legal guidelines which are going to inhibit the press, to offer proof for our advocacy with governments.”
The Cybercrime Act has been used repeatedly to arrest journalists in reference to their work in Nigeria, Rozen informed VOA.
CPJ is asking for the swift launch of the journalist and for reform, Rozen stated. “We now have repeatedly referred to as for Nigerian lawmakers, management in Nigeria, to reform these legal guidelines to make sure that these instruments which are used to criminalize journalism aren’t out there in Nigeria,” he stated.
Mienpamo is due again in court docket on December 4. If convicted, he faces as much as 10 years in jail and a wonderful of greater than $32,000.
For now, his lawyer stated, the precedence is to get Mienpamo out of jail.