Three senior editors of the “Insider Weekly” magazine were on November 24, 2003, arrested and detained by police authorities in Lagos, Nigeria. They were accused of “sedition” and “criminal defamation”, in connection with a story published in the November 24, 2003 edition of the magazine.
According to Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA)-Nigeria, Chucks Onwudinjo and Janet Mba-Afolabi, both executive editors, and Osa Director, editor-in-chief, were picked up at about 2:00pm on Monday and held at the Panti police station in Yaba, Lagos for two days. They were charged to court on Wednesday November 26, for allegedly conspiring to publish seditious information against Vice President Abubakar Atiku and General Aliyu Muhammed Gusau (Rtd), National Security Advisor to President Olusegun Obasanjo, thereby committing criminal defamation.
Criminal defamation is punishable by imprisonment under Sections 518 (6), 51 1(c) and 375 of the Criminal Code of Nigeria. The journalists all pleaded not guilty, and were granted bail in the sum of N200,000 (about US $1,515). They are to reappear in court on January 12, 2004.
The MFWA appeals to the authorities in Nigeria to pursue the option of a rejoinder, and to discontinue the criminal defamation charges against the journalists because they have the effect of intimidating journalists and restraining them from investigating and reporting issues in the public interest.