Monday, July 6, 1998Thirteen IFEX members signed the following statement issued by WAJA, calling for the release of other journalists in Nigeria. (Due to technical difficulties in reaching Ghana, the final list of signatures was not confirmed until now.) "On 23 June 1998, which has been designated "Freedom Day" in Nigeria by opposition groups, the West African Journalists Association (WAJA) is joined by other organizations from around the world to call for the release of political prisoners and freedom of expression in Nigeria. General Sani Abacha's four years of rule over the country reversed the clock of press freedom and traumatized the human rights situation in Nigeria, which had adverse effects on the media landscape in West Africa. "We have since then been following with keen interest pronouncements by the new military leader General Abdusalam Abubakar and indeed welcome the release of nine detainees including Chris Anyanwu, Editor-in-Chief of the defunct "The Sunday Magazine" and General Olusegun Obasanjo, former head of state of Nigeria. "But we are of the opinion that the momentum for a positive change that will bring lasting peace and democracy to Nigeria can only take an upswing if the new military leader takes more practical steps and measures that can convince Nigerians, WAJA and the international community that he really wants to make a departure from the policies and programmes of General Abacha. "We therefore call on General Abubakar to immediately release all political detainees still languishing in jail. We are pleased that Chris Anyanwu has been released but her release is meaningless unless the other three journalists - George Mbah of "Tell", Ben Charles Obi of "Weekend Classique" and Kunle Ajibade of "TheNews" - who were arrested and sentenced with Anyanwu in 1995 are released, along with other journalists in detention. "General Abubakar should also show he is not just another General Abacha by releasing Moshood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 12 June 1993 elections from continued detention and engage in genuine discussions with human rights groups and political bodies that will facilitate the return of Nigeria to constitutional rule as scheduled. "We want to use this occasion to congratulate the journalists of Nigeria whose resilience and courage have kept the flame of freedom burning in the very difficult years under Abacha. "We have no illusion in our minds that their struggle is over and will continue to show solidarity as our colleagues and all freedom loving people in Nigeria fight for final victory. "Following are the names, news affiliations and dates of imprisonment of the 12 other imprisoned Nigerian journalists and media employees: * Jude Sinnee, newspaper vendor, 1 March 1996 * Okina Deesor, Radio Rivers, 31 July 1996 * Moshood Fayemiwo, "Razor", 1 February 1997 * Adetokunbo Fakeye, "PM News", 4 November 1997 * Babafemi Ojudu, TheNews/Tempo/PM News Group, 17 November 1997 * Rafiu Salau, TheNews/Tempo/PM News Group, 18 November 1997 * Ben Adaji, "TheNews", 4 December 1997 * Niran Malaolu, "The Diet", 28 December 1997 * Obi Chukwumba, "African Concord", 5 January 1998 * Joshua Ogbonna, "Rising Sun", 9 March 1998 * John Edward, "Prime Sunset", 22 March 1998 * Ganiyu Adeoye, "Prime Sunset", 22 March 1998 "The undersigned international human rights groups, press freedom organizations and journalists' associations support this statement:" ARTICLE 19 Canadian Committee to Protect Journalists Committee to Protect Journalists, U.S.A. Greek Helsinki Monitor Hong Kong Journalists Association Human Rights Watch Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information, Indonesia Norwegian Forum for Freedom of Expression PEN American Center West African Journalists' Association, Ghana World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters, Canada World Association of Newspapers, France World Press Freedom Committee, U.S.A. For further information, contact Kabral Blay-Amihere at WAJA, International Press Centre, Accra, Ghana or PO Box 4031, tel: +233 21 234692/27558765, fax: +233 21 234694/772990, e-mail: [email protected]
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