The Media Foundation for West Africa welcomes the release on bail of journalist Luka Binniyat after 84 days in custody and demands an end to his prosecution.
Federal High Court in Kaduna, capital of Kaduna State in Nigeria, on January 27, 2022, granted the bail in the sum of N 1million (about USD 2,450) and two sureties with the same amount.
The journalist who works with the US-based Epoch Times online newspaper was arrested on November 4, 2021, after he wrote an article denouncing the Kaduna state government’s indifferent response to attacks by bandits on communities in southern Kaduna. The article, which was published in September 2021, had quoted the Senator for Kaduna South, Danjuma La’ah, as making some critical remarks about the state authorities’ handling of the security situation. La’ah subsequently denied making the comments attributed to him, and the journalist was charged with cyberstalking and aiding and abetting the offence of cybercrime in connection with the online article.
His detention followed a defamation complaint by the Kaduna State Commissioner for Internal Security, Samuel Aruwan. Binniyat pleaded not guilty to the charges and previous attempts by his lawyers to secure bail were unsuccessful.
Binniyat again pleaded not guilty to the charges during the hearing on January 27, 2022, and with the prosecution raising no objection, his bail application was granted. The journalist’s health is reported to be deteriorating. His wife, Glady Binniyat, recently raised an alarm in the media concerning his failing health in prison.
Binniyat is a fearless activist journalist with a passion for community empowerment. He profiles himself on his Twitter account @Kindusluka as a “Writer, Community Mobiliser and Terror to Tyrants.”
This is the second time his reports have landed him in trouble with the authorities. On July 16, 2017, he was charged with “breach of public peace” and false reporting in connection with an article he wrote almost six months earlier in which he reported that some herdsmen had killed five students of the Kaduna State College of Education. Although Binniyat arrived in court on crutches following an accident, the judge ordered him to be remanded in custody. He eventually spent 96 days in detention before being released on bail after a series of hearings and adjournments.
“The MFWA welcomes the release of Luka Binniyat from detention and urges the authorities in Kaduna State to stop the criminal proceedings against the journalist. To charge a journalist with “cyberstalking” over an article on the important subject of insecurity that is of great public interest in Kaduna State is, to stretch Nigeria’s Cyber Crime Law 2015 to absurd limits. Moreover, the long period of pre-trial detention of the journalist in a maximum security prison which has compromised his health, is abusive enough,” said Muheeb Saeed, a Senior Programme Officer at MFWA.