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Thursday, July 8, 2004
Nigerian journalist arrested, "tortured"
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Nigerian journalist arrested, "tortured"
- Staff writer, afrol News

A correspondent of an independent Nigerian newspaper in Nigeria's troubled northern state of Kano has reportedly been "arrested, tortured and charged with publishing false information." The journalist had reported on the "crisis in Kano," where ethnic reprisal killings had taken place. On 4 July, Kola Oyelere, the Kano State correspondent for the privately-owned 'Nigerian Tribune' newspaper, was arrested by police in Kano State in north-western Nigeria. He was detained, reportedly tortured and subsequently charged with publishing false information by a Kano Chief Magistrate Court the day after, according to the Lagos-based Media Rights Agenda (MRA).

Mr Oyelere was charged with publishing false information in contravention of the Penal Code following the publication of a lead story in the 4 July 'Sunday Tribune' titled, "Panic in Kano as Fresh Crisis Looms", which he co-authored with the newspaper's Abuja correspondent, Bankole Makinde. He had earlier been declared wanted by police on 4 July, before his arrest. - At the court, the presiding magistrate, Ibrahim Umar Fagga, adjourned further proceedings in the case to 29 July, after listening to the police prosecutor and Mr Oyelere, according to the Lagos-based press freedom groups.

Mr Oyelere was able to speak briefly with reporters at the Kano court premises, before he was taken away by police after the proceedings. He said he was beaten and prevented from taking his medication for typhoid fever. The 'Tribune' correspondent said, "They refused to allow me to eat any food or [drink] water since Sunday afternoon, when I was detained at the state CID cell. I was subjected to all sorts of torture during interrogation. In fact they did not allow me even to take my typhoid drugs."

Police Officer Rufai Inusa told the journalists that Mr Oyelere was arrested on orders of the Kano State police commissioner and that he would not be released until investigations are concluded. He did not say what they were investigating. According to MRA, Mr Oyelere still remains in police custody.

The Nigerian press freedom group today protested Mr Oyelere's detention and said "that the use of criminal charges to repress or intimidate journalists undermines the spirit of Nigeria's new democratic process and violates the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 39 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution."

The group further called on Kano Governor Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau to "immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Mr Oyelere." Kano authorities should "immediately and unconditionally release Mr Oyelere" and "respect the rights of journalists to practice their profession freely," MRA added.

Nigeria's Kano State has received much attention by national and international media due to polarising government policies. The State, which practices Muslim shari'a laws, has been the scene of several religious clashes, latest when Muslims engaged in "reprisal killings" of Christians following killings of Muslims in Plateau State. The Kano government also has made headlines by prohibiting polio vaccination until this week, claiming the polio vaccine was a US plot to spread AIDS and infertility among Muslims.

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