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Drop Charges Against Journalists, Criminal Defamation A Colonial Relic -US-based CPJ

CPJ also urged the authorities to reform Nigeria’s penal code to
ensure that journalism is not criminalized.



The United States Of America-based Committee to Protect Journalists
has urged Nigerian authorities to drop all charges against two
journalists in Delta state, Joe Ogbodu and Prince Amour Udemude.

CPJ also urged the authorities to reform Nigeria’s penal code to
ensure that journalism is not criminalized.

Ogbodu, Managing Editor of the BigPen online newspaper and Udemude,
are standing trial at the Magistrate's Court 5 Asaba, for a story
regarding Nigeria's former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Alexander
Ogomudia (retd) and Sam Ogrih concerning their alleged roles in a
crisis rocking Uzere community, Isoko South local government area of
the state.

Reacting to the journalists' trial on four counts of criminal
defamation and one count of disturbing the peace, CPJ Africa Programme
Coordinator, Angela Quintal, said in a statement, "Criminal defamation
is an arcane vestige of Nigeria’s colonial era. Laws that criminalize
the press have no place in a modern society that aims to respect press

"Nigerian authorities should drop the charges against journalists Joe
Ogbodu and Prince Amour Udemude and allow them to continue their work
without fear of imprisonment."

The statement added, "Ogbodu told CPJ that police asked him to come in
for questioning on October 23 and was held for six hours and officers
tried, unsuccessfully, to make him state that the report was false.

"Udemude told CPJ that he was arrested at his home in Asaba, on
October 22 and was taken to the Delta State Police Command, where he
was forced to write a statement dictated by an investigation officer,
Theresa Okpor, who threatened him with prolonged questioning and
detention if he did not write what was dictated.

"Udemude said he was held at the station for 11 hours before being
released on bail without charge and asked to return the following day
and (in) the detention he was forced to take off all his clothes,
except his underwear."

The CPJ noted further, "That when he returned on October 23, he was
questioned on allegations related to a retired Nigerian army general,
Alexander Ogomudia, who was also mentioned in the report. He said
police released him 10 hours after he arrived at 8 am and asked him to
return the following day when he and Ogbodu were arraigned.

"When contacted by phone, Okpor declined to comment and directed CPJ
to the state police public relations officer. The Delta State police
commissioner, Adeleke Adeyinka, told CPJ that criminal defamation was
within the law. Adeyinka declined to comment on the allegation that
Okpor forced Udemude to write a statement."

The CPJ contacted Ogrih but he declined to comment on the issue, while
calls and a message sent to Ogomudia, went unanswered.