The government of Kaduna State in its further drive to cage the media and muffle freedom of expression, had this week arraigned a Kaduna based Journalist, Luka Binniyat before a Kaduna State High Court charged with injurious falsehood and incitement. He was earlier charged to a Magistrate Court for the same allegations, remanded in Prison custody before being granted bail. The High Court had equally remanded Luka Binniyat in Prison custody pending the hearing of his bail application next week.
It will be recalled that Kaduna State government had issued a stern warning to Journalists on the 28th of January this year, threatening of dire consequences if they file any story considered false by the State Governor. Recently some other journalists were taken to court by Governor Nasiru el Rufai, prominent of which included Midat Joseph of Leadership Newspapers who was detained and charged to court for alleged injurious falsehood, plan for mass demonstration that will shut down Kaduna and public incitement. Others being hounded are Dickson Onjekwu of New Nigerian Newspapers and Gabriel Idibia of Union Newspapers.
EL Rufai’s numerous actions are clearly aimed at his perceived political opponents which ridiculously include the media. As a result of his intolerance for criticisms and aversion for the media many Journalists in the State are now being persecuted by the Government. We are terrified by the remanding of Binniyat in prison custody because of his health challenges. He had an accident and came to court on clutches to answer the summons but instead of being in hospital, he is now behind bars. The NUJ will hold Governor Nasiru el Rufai fully responsible if anything mysterious happens to Binniyat in prison.
This development calls for concern, because the government of el Rufai rode to power on the formidable use of the media and therefore it cannot now turn round to want to instruct journalists on how to do their jobs. Certainly the Governor cannot make untoward rules for journalists outside their extant code of practice. Journalists should not be used as scapegoats to cover up for his numerous gaffes.
We advise the Governor to desist from having Journalists arrested, detained and taken to court for writing stories and reports on the crisis in Southern Kaduna which he feels do not reflect the thinking of the State Government. The problems of Southern Kaduna can never be resolved through threats and intimidation by the Kaduna State Government on Journalists. Rather, we suggest that he should appeal to the media to help mobilise citizens to appreciate the benefits of peace and peaceful coexistence.
Shuaibu Usman Leman