LEDAP hereby condemns the arrest and detention of the publisher of Premium Times, Mr Dapo Olorunyomi and a female journalist, Evelyn Okakwu following feud between the newspaper and the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen Tukur Buratai, on alleged defamatory publications.
LEDAP reiterates that freedom speech and freedom press are indispensable to any democratic government. It is evident that these acts of intimidation and harassment of the members of the press for information they lawfully disseminate has become very prevalent under the current administration. While we firmly agree that laws against defamation are limitations to freedom of expression, it is a matter for the court to decide not the Nigerian Police Force. This has been long decided by the courts in the cases of Chike Obi v. DPP, and Olawoyin v. AG Northern Nigeria.
LEDAP is worried that the press cannot be made to live in the apprehension of punishment or arrests for publication which offends the sensibilities of certain persons, even when the publication is justified within the bounds of the law. This would leave the public with information that has been vetoed by those in high places and would certainly be against the tenor of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
LEDAP therefore condemns the arrests as undemocratic, unlawful and unwarranted and demand that the arrested journalist be released within 24hours. We equally urge President Muhammed Buhari, to call the Chief of Army Staff, members of the Nigerian Armed Forces, and officers of the Nigeria Police Force to order. The rule of law must at all times be respected by this administration. Nigeria’s democracy has come too far for such flagrant abuse of constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Executive Programmes Director