Publisher arrested after questioning first lady’s house sales

New York, May 5, 2005—The Committee to Protect Journalists today condemned this week’s arrest of a newspaper publisher, who was charged with criminal libel after his publication accused First Lady Stella Obasanjo of corruption.

Omo-Ojo Orobosa, publisher of the weekly Midwest Herald, has been held since Monday, his lawyer, Festus Keyamo, told CPJ. Orobosa was arrested at the newspaper’s Lagos office and taken to the capital, Abuja, according to Keyamo. The lawyer told CPJ that he rushed to the scene of the arrest and confronted police, who said they were acting on the first lady’s orders.

An article last week headlined “Greedy Stella” alleged that the first lady was involved in selling government houses to her relatives at below-market prices, Keyamo said. Two other people involved in circulating and advertising the Midwest Herald were also detained, Keyamo said. The Midwest Herald circulates mainly in southern Nigerian states that include the first lady’s home region.

“We’re outraged at the arrest of Mr. Orobosa, who was reporting on a matter of public interest,” CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said. “We call for his immediate and unconditional release.”

Media Rights Agenda, the Nigerian press freedom group that first reported the arrest, quoted a spokesman for President Olusegun Obasanjo as saying he was not aware of Orobosa’s case.