PEN Nigeria decries detention and persecution of Nigerian writers, journalists

The Nigerian Centre of PEN International, also known as PEN Nigeria, has decried and drawn attention to the continued detention and persecution of several Nigerian writers, bloggers and journalists.

According to a statement issued by the international body of writers, despite the global outcry trailing the detention of the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, he was yet to regain his freedom.

“Mr. Sowore was abducted on Saturday, August 3 2019, and on Friday August 9 an order to detain him for 45 days was granted to the Department of State Security. On Friday September 20th, a day before the expiration of that order, the DSS filed a motion to detain him for an additional 20 days; on Friday October 4, Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu granted Mr. Sowore N100 million bail with two sureties in like sum, while his co-defendant, Olawale Bakare, was granted N50 million bail.

“On Monday, October 21, 2019, the Federal High Court partially reduced the conditions of the bail granted Sowore and Bakare. However, Mr. Sowore remains in custody, together with Mr. Bakare,” the statement said.

The statement further noted that Messrs Sowore and Bakare were by no means the sole victims of the state’s disregard for the rule of law and freedom of expression, adding that Jones Abiri, after being held incommunicado for two years, was released but had since been rearrested. It also drew attention to Dadiyata, the blogger who is still in custody, with a shroud of uncertainty surrounding his whereabouts. Others were journalist Mary Ekere who was assaulted and arrested in the course of discharging her duties, as was Agba Jalingo. Stephen Kefas was also remanded in Kaduna prison over a Facebook post, as was Kofi Bartels in Port Harcourt.

“These instances of violation of the freedom of expression of Nigerian writers, journalists and bloggers, at the behest of agents of the state, call for great concern. In a democratic dispensation such as Nigeria purports to be, one of the pillars is freedom of expression.

“We believe that such censorship of the people bodes ill for the continuing healthy evolution of this entity called Nigeria. We therefore wish to condemn in the strongest terms these acts of violation of the right to liberty of the afore-named persons, as well as others facing a similar fate,” the statement added.

PEN Nigeria also called on the judiciary to remain resolute in its refusal to morph into a mere appendage of the government, and encouraged writers of every designation to continue to wield their pens responsibly and resolutely in defence of truth and freedom of expression.

“We resolve that our dear country will not be conscripted into the farcical and repressive role of criminalising freedom of expression which is the cornerstone of democracy, and therefore call for the immediate and unconditional release of the afore-mentioned,” the statement stressed.


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