JOHANNESBURG – The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on Nigerian authorities to release a detained journalist accused of false reporting.
A judge ordered the journalist be detained on charges of “breach of public peace” and false reporting over an article he wrote for the daily, Vanguard.
“Nigerian authorities should drop all charges against Luka Binniyat and release the journalist from jail immediately,” the CPJ said on Tuesday.
The accused’s lawyer, James Kanyip, said during an arraignment in the city of Kaduna on July 12, Binniyat pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Binniyat, who is recovering from an accident, arrived at the court on crutches.
“At the hearing, the judge said he was feeling unwell and ordered Binniyat to be remanded in custody until July 20 to give the judge time to read the journalist’s argument,” said Kanyip.
The charges are related to a 24 January article that Binniyat wrote for Vanguard in which he alleged that herdsmen killed five students from the College of Education.
READ: Nigerian blogger still in prison despite bail
Kaduna authorities charged the journalist on March 20 under the state’s penal code.
“Charging a journalist with ‘breach of peace’ simply for informing the public is unacceptable, and arbitrarily throwing him in prison when he appears for a hearing is outrageous,” said CPJ Africa Program Co-ordinator Angela Quintal.
“Nigerian authorities should immediately release Luka Binniyat and drop all charges against him.”
Under the state penal code, Binniyat faces up to three years in prison if convicted of breach of public peace and two years if convicted of false reporting, or “injurious falsehood.”
Binniyat, who stopped working for Vanguard after he was first charged over the story, is due back in court July 20.
Reports from Nigeria say tensions are high in Kaduna state. Nigeria’s military intervened in the region after a series of killings and political and religious tensions in the south.
“Binniyat has been a voice against the government for a very long time, especially in respect to the killings that are going on in southern Kaduna,” said lawyer Kanyip.
African News Agency